The most recent episode of the U.S. comedy cartoon show South Park, ‘Band in China,’ has been banned in China. Its content touched on politically sensitive topics for the Beijing regime: Hollywood kowtowing to Chinese censorship in exchange for market access; and China’s human rights abuses, such as forced organ harvesting and extrajudicial killings.
“[Chinese leader] Xi [Jinping] doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10,” South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote in a statement on Oct. 7.
“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the statement reads. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
At the end of the statement, Parker and Stone made a joke: “Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?”
— South Park (@SouthPark) October 7, 2019
Parker and Stone were referencing a tweet by Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey that led to all Rockets-related products being removed from China’s largest online store, Taobao, on Oct. 7. In his tweet, Morey voiced support for the Hong Kong protesters and their calls for democracy, drawing the ire of the communist regime.
Although Morey deleted the tweet and replaced it with an apology, China didn’t pardon the Rockets.
The controversy was also picked up by international media, with U.S. officials lambasting the NBA for calling Morey’s comments “regrettable.”
South Park suffered the same treatment.
On the Chinese streaming service, Youku, owned by Chinese internet giant Alibaba, all links to clips and episodes of the show are no longer functioning, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
On Baidu’s Tieba, China’s largest online discussions platform, no posts relating to the South Park episode were allowed. Existing South Park discussions were scrubbed, with only this message informing users: “According to the relevant laws and regulations, this section is temporarily not open.”
On Zhihu, Douban, Bilibili, and other Chinese social media, South Park became a censored topic, with searches returning no information.
Band Vs Banned
“Band in China” is the second episode of the twenty-third season of South Park, which premiered in the United States on Oct. 2.
In the episode, Stan Marsh’s father, Randy, goes to China to expand his marijuana business. Soon after landing, Randy is detained and sentenced to prison because marijuana was found in his luggage.
In prison, Randy witnesses slave labor, torture, “re-education,” as well as the practice of summary execution. Meanwhile, Randy meets fellow prisoners Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, who are there because they were banned in China after internet memes comparing Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Disney’s version of Pooh bear became popular. Finally, Randy kills Pooh in exchange for his marijuana business being legalized in China.
Back at home, a music producer wants to make a biopic about Stan’s band. But the band soon learns that they must edit their lives in order to make the film marketable in China due to Beijing’s censorship. In one scene, Stan suggests to band member Eric Cartman that he can easily get a liver transplant, as Cartman has become addicted to drugs. But the music producer quickly intervenes, saying that Beijing would not approve of any mentioning of organ transplants due to international research confirming that the Chinese regime conducts state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. In the end, Stan changes his mind during filming and decides not to compromise for China.
Bribery, forced organ harvesting, prison torture and killings, slave labor, and Winnie-the-Pooh are topics long banned from public discussion by the Chinese Communist Party.