World News

China censors John Oliver after scathing 20 minute video

Posted June 21, 2018 2:15 a.m. EDT

— Comedian John Oliver has been scrubbed from Chinese microblogging site Weibo after satirizing Chinese president Xi Jinping on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight."

HBO is part of WarnerMedia, which also operates CNN parent company Turner.

Oliver spent 20 minutes Sunday criticizing Xi on everything from the removal of term limits, allowing him to rule for life, to China's economic leverage.

One of his critiques focused on censorship. "While China has never exactly been known as a haven for free expression, (Xi) has clamped down noticeably on any form of dissent whatsoever," Oliver said, citing banned phrases online such as "personality cult."

True to form, Chinese censors soon wiped posts about Oliver and his show from Weibo.

Users can still search his name, but all recent content has been deleted, leaving only posts from before June 12.

Those who attempt to post Oliver's name receive an error message which says the content "violates relevant regulations or the 'Weibo Community Convention'."

"Last Week Tonight" is not broadcast anywhere in China, but videos from Oliver and other popular late night hosts like Stephen Colbert are often shared on video sites and social media.

So far, Oliver hasn't been censored on other large Chinese social media platforms, including WeChat, Baidu and QQ.

Predictably, there is no trace of the China episode anywhere on Weibo or on other sites.

At times, the episode was lighthearted, with Oliver joking about Xi's alleged "insecurity" about his resemblance to Winnie the Pooh.

However, the host grew more serious when discussing topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the imprisonment of activist Liu Xiaobo, and the persecution of Uyghurs in western China.

"Under Xi Jinping, China is becoming more authoritarian, just as it has major plans for expansion onto the world stage," Oliver said. "It is arguably more important than ever that America be strategic and tactical about how to deal with China."