China Blocks HBO Website After John Oliver’s Jokes About Xi Jinping

China Blocks HBO Website After John Oliver’s Jokes About Xi Jinping

HONG KONG — Days after the comedian John Oliver mocked China’s president, Xi Jinping, on his HBO program, the authorities in that country now appear to have blocked internet users from gaining access to the network’s online content.

The HBO website has been inaccessible to mainland Chinese internet users since Saturday, according to GreatFire.org, an internet censorship watchdog.

The latest effort to erase Mr. Oliver from the Chinese internet comes after measures the authorities implemented last week to scrub any mention of the British-born comedian on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform.

HBO, which is distributed throughout the region by the subsidiary HBO Asia, is unavailable on China’s cable and satellite systems except at “foreign housing compounds” such as hotels. Mr. Oliver’s show, however, was never included in HBO Asia’s programming line up.

HBO.com, the blocked website, effectively served in China as an advertising platform and not as a portal for streaming movies and programs.

Some of the cable network’s most popular shows, including “Game of Thrones,” are available for viewing in China via Tencent Video, a streaming service. “Last Week Tonight” is not among the programs Tencent offers, and the video platform’s HBO content did not appear affected by the ban.

In the 20-minute segment that preceded his banishment from the Chinese internet, Mr. Oliver condemned China’s human rights record and its crackdown on dissent. He also mocked Mr. Xi for censoring Winnie-the-Pooh. The leader is sometimes parodied in pictures posted online that compare him to the cartoon bear.

“Clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn’t exactly project strength,” Mr. Oliver said. “It suggests a weird insecurity.”

Chinese internet users often use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to gain access to restricted content. The networks mask users’ location to bypass geographically based licensing restrictions and censorship by the government.

Tiffany May reported from Hong Kong, and Olivia Mitchell Ryan from Beijing.

Follow Tiffany May and Olivia Mitchell Ryan on Twitter: @NYtmay and @oliviamryan.

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