John Oliver and his Last Week Tonight found themselves censored in China last week after the host made some biting comments about PROC President Xi Jinping. Both Oliver and the HBO show were banned on the Weibo microblogging platform with attempts to create posts using the words “John Oliver” resulting in error messages. Word out of China now is that the website for HBO has been blocked.
The HBO site contains only program information with shows going out under a license deal via Tencent’s streaming platform. A source on the ground tells me that internet users can’t access the HBO website, but that series like Westworld and Game Of Thrones were still on Tencent’s platform as of Tuesday evening local time. HBOAsia’s website can also be accessed. Deadline has reached out to HBOAsia for comment. Last Week Tonight has never been part of the China offering.
Chinese authorities have previously blocked such media outlets and social media platforms as The New York Times, Facebook and Twitter and frequently censor online programming. Last summer, Netflix’s Bojack Horseman was pulled from the iQiyi streaming service for “adjustments,” although it has yet to return.
Bloomberg reports that while Weibo still won’t allow users to send posts with Oliver’s name, searches for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver are still working, though they appear to filter out mentions of the show’s recent segment. I’m told there have not been local news reports about HBO and Oliver.
The segment lambasted Xi for China’s “dystopian levels of surveillance and persecution” of Uighur Muslims and the imprisonment of dissidents. Oliver also took on censorship and noted that China has been cracking down on references to the president’s perceived resemblance to Winnie the Pooh which surfaces from time to time in a popular meme.