China’s social network bans US talk show host for criticising Xi

Just days after popular US talk show host John Oliver Winnie joked on his Sunday show about Beijing’s ban on Winnie the Pooh and the cartoon bear’s close resemblance to President Xi Jinping, China’s largest social network, Weibo, censored the UK comedian. The ban was first noticed by a Hong Kong-based news outlet on Wednesday after its reporters were unable to post news about Oliver on the network. On checking, they found Weibo had deleted all posts containing the words ‘John Oliver’ and the name of his talk show ‘Last Week Tonight’ since June 12. Besides mocking Xi for his iron grip on media, Oliver questioned Beijing’s unprecedented move to extend his term to make him president for life, alleged human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and dissidents like the late Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. Oliver said Xi’s image-building exercise is to prevent an Arab Spring-style revolt in China amid the slowing of the economy. Steps like the ban on Winnie the Pooh point to Beijing’s growing insecurity and not its strength.