The People’s Republic of China has been busy stopping its own people from seeing, listening to, and otherwise engaging in informational and entertainment media of all sorts, including movies, television, books, newspapers, magazines, music, video games, and the Internet.
The Communist Party of China, the nation’s single ruling party, heavy-handedly mandates so. Notably, since 2012, when Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of the Communist Party, censorship has increased significantly.
A Hollywood case in point. Richard Gere, by all measures, had in the past been considered to be a bona-fide superstar. But something curious happened after he made a pro-Dalai Lama speech at the 1993 Academy Awards.
In what he likely assumed was a free speech prerogative, the actor went about sharing with others that he was a follower and even a defender of someone the Chinese government abhors. He soon found himself being shunned by the major studios, and he has been noticeably absent from Oscar ceremonies ever since.
“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him,’” Gere told the Hollywood Reporter.
Apparently, tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo have been voluntarily self-censoring their content for Chinese markets in order to continue conducting business with the country. Other companies and individuals have not been afforded the same opportunity.
China has banned a host of musical artists over time including Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, and Kylie Minogue.
Zedd, the international Grammy-winning DJ, found himself permanently banished from China. The mistake he made was that he “liked” a tweet posted on the “South Park” Twitter account. The tweet in question referred to the 300th episode of the successful animated television program. Perhaps surprisingly for Zedd, the government of China had just banned “South Park” over an episode that lampooned China along with the NBA.
The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV made the decision to ban NBA pre-season games after a tweet was posted by Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, which lent support to the anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Using their show to poke China, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone aired an episode titled “Band in China,” which sent a delightfully satiric message to tech, entertainment, and sports institutions about some of the current practices of dutifully complying with China’s censors.
In the episode, one of the “South Park” characters is arrested in China and subsequently observes the brutal treatment that some of the Chinese prisoners are forced to endure.
Which prisoners suffer the abuse? Two banned characters from one of the world’s most beloved literary faves – Winnie the Pooh and his best friend Piglet, who were eliminated because Chinese dictator Xi was said to resemble Pooh in online memes.
A cartoon version of an entertainment executive who appears in the episode states that Pooh cannot be the subject of a film because the literary and Disney character is “illegal,” due to the fact that “some Chinese students said he looked like the Chinese president.”
Real life entertainment executives have been bending to China’s will for years. Disney’s movie “Christopher Robin” was not shown in the communist nation because Winnie the Pooh had a starring role in the film.
Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” had to be altered because the plot originally had the zombie outbreak originating in China and subsequently spreading throughout the world.
The remake of “Red Dawn” was re-shot and digitally altered to switch the ancestral heritage of the invaders of the U.S. from Chinese to North Korean. Despite the modifications, it still ended up not being released in China.
The James Bond movie “Skyfall” could only be shown in China after scenes were edited out, ones that depicted the existence of prostitutes in a part of China known as Macau. Additionally, references to torture that was being carried out by Chinese police had to be eliminated.
The film “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” had footage taken out, which featured Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat’s character, in order to please the Chinese powers that be.
“Mission Impossible III” edited out a car chase that took place in Shanghai because underwear could be seen hanging on clotheslines.
“The Departed” was banned because of an implication that the Chinese communists planned to use nuclear weapons on Taiwan.
The Bond film “Casino Royale” could only be screened after references to the Cold War were removed.
Parker and Stone issued a biting “official apology” panning China’s ban of “South Park” and jabbing the NBA while they were at it.
“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?”
As slippery slopes would have it, the stifling of free speech is not being confined within China’s borders. Rather, it looks as if the freedom-denying activity has become one of China’s biggest exports.