By Natasha Bach
June 25, 2018

If there’s one thing you can count on from HBO’s John Oliver, it’s that he doesn’t avoid controversial subjects.

The host of Last Week Tonight has recently reserved his most biting words for domestic issues, particularly regarding the personnel of the Trump administration. But in a recent episode, Oliver took on Chinese president Xi Jinping and the notorious Chinese censors—and apparently lost.

Oliver opened the June 17 episode calling China “the country responsible for huge technological advances,” and then quickly followed by claiming that it “still can’t seem to get pandas to f***.” A portion of the episode focused on Xi, calling him a “creepy uncle who imprisons 800,000 people in his basement,” and mocking his sensitivity over being compared to Winnie the Pooh.

While Oliver reveled in to the comedy of that situation, suggesting to Xi that “if your face even remotely resembles that of a beloved cartoon character, the smart move here is to lean in,” he also took the opportunity to strike a more serious note, criticizing the repressive changes and policies of the government. “While China has never been known as a haven for free expression, [Xi] has clamped down noticeably on any form of dissent whatsoever,” Oliver said.

Now Oliver, and the network that airs his show, HBO, appear to have fallen victim to the precise authorities that he mocked. Chinese authorities have blocked HBO in China, and even Oliver’s name and the name of his show have been censored on Sina Weibo.

The joke may still be on Xi, however, as many Chinese users already access HBO shows through VPNs, which are impervious to the censorship.

 

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