Sunday, June 4, 2023

China Slaps Comedy Studio with $2 Million Fine for Mocking Military

China has imposed a penalty of 14.7 million yuan ($2.13 million) on Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media Co, a well-known comedy company, accusing it of “harming society” due to a military joke made by one of its comedians that received strong public criticism.

The Beijing arm of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism Bureau announced that it would fine the company 13.35 million yuan and confiscate 1.35 million yuan in “illegal gains” after determining that a recent show by Li Haoshi, known by his stage name House, had violated regulations.

The incident has sparked a significant divide among the Chinese public regarding the appropriateness of jokes, as stand-up comedy gains popularity. It also highlights the boundaries of acceptable content in China, where authorities insist on promoting core socialist values.

Li gained viral attention on Chinese social media after an audience member posted online about a joke he had made during a live stand-up performance in Beijing on May 13, which was deemed derogatory towards China’s People’s Liberation Army.

In the joke, Li recounted an incident where he saw two stray dogs he had adopted chasing a squirrel and compared it to the phrase “Have a good work style, be able to fight and win battles,” a slogan used by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to praise the PLA’s work ethic.

The cultural bureau stated, “We will never allow any company or individual to use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA.” Consequently, Xiaoguo Culture will be prohibited from staging future shows in Beijing.

In response to the penalty, Xiaoguo Culture attributed the incident to “major loopholes in management” and announced the termination of Li’s contract.

Li was unavailable for immediate comment, and it appears that his ability to post on his Weibo account has been restricted.

Established at Shanghai in 2015, Xiaoguo Culture has gained popularity alongside China’s growing interest in stand-up comedy. The company has played a significant role in raising the profiles of numerous local comedians.

This is not the first time that Xiaoguo Culture and its artists have encountered issues with authorities. In July 2021, the company was fined 200,000 yuan for featuring an advertisement with a comedian endorsing a lingerie brand, which was criticized for objectifying women.

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