The producers of the American animated series South Park issued a sarcastic apology to China after the Beijing censors erased every trace of the cartoon on all social media streaming and media services in mainland China.
The apology, published on October 7, mocks the National Basketball Association of the United States (known as the NBA) for bringing “Chinese censors in our homes and our hearts.” The humorous statement follows a global online row caused by a tweet published by Daryl Morey, general manager of Houston Rockets, an NBA team, in which he supports Hong Kong protesters for more political freedom and opposes policies from Beijing.
What triggered the action of the Chinese censors was the episode of the series entitled “Band in China.” In the episode, the character Randy travels on business to China and falls into a jail where he meets Disney characters, such as Winnie Pooh and Piglet.
The episode mocks Hollywood for its self-censorship practices in China and aired on October 2, just one day before the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
The episode impacted some fans of the series in and out of China for their violent scenes, which are typical of the series since its premiere in 1997.
South Park’s “Band in China” episode on companies self-censoring in China is pure gold. Watch here: https://t.co/Ts4dz0vKkH
Warning: Program contains scenes of extreme violence — from forced confessions to Stan’s dad, Randy, killing Winnie the Pooh. Also, there’s death metal. pic.twitter.com/1vymgWWM14
– Ray Kwong (@raykwong) October 5, 2019
South Park episode “Band in China” about self-censorship of companies in China is pure gold. You can see it here: https: //southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s23e02-band-in-china …
Warning: the show contains scenes of extreme violence — from forced confessions to Randy, Stan's father, who kills Winnie Pooh. In addition, there is music death metal.
The story comes to criticize China's “forced confession” practices when Randy is forced to confess that he killed WinniePooh, online meme of Chinese President Xi Jinping:
The new South Park episode entitled “Band In China” focuses on China's strict censorship of media
During the episode China tasks the gang with having to kill Winnie the Pooh. In real life, Winnie the Pooh is defacto banned in China due to memes comparing him to China's president pic.twitter.com/Xvj7ZYMO0M
– Censored Gaming (@CensoredGaming_) October 5, 2019
The new episode of South Park titled “Band in China” is about strict media censorship in China.
During the episode, China instructs the group to kill Winnie Pooh. In real life, Winnie Pooh is banned in China by the memes that compare him to the president of China.
Clearly, the creators of the series, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had planned the internet ban in China. Moreover, as if the message of Randy's experience in China had not been clear enough, South Park made another episode of “Band in China” freely available on October 3:
Kyle returns to South Park and gives Stan a great idea, but the boys realize they can't betray their ideals. Watch the all-new episode, “Band In China” for FREE – https://t.co/oktKSJvjxS # southpark23 #fingerbang pic.twitter.com/Bq5K6gWjOV
– South Park (@SouthPark) October 3, 2019
Kyle returns to South Park and gives Stan a great idea, but the boys realize they can't betray their ideals, “Band in China” for FREE.
On October 7, after the ban in China and the publication of the NBA's statement of apology to China for the tweet of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey about Hong Kong, South Park published an “official statement” in Twitter mocking the NBA:
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?
Like the NBA, we welcome Chinese censors in our homes and our hearts. We also love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn't look anything like Winnie the Pooh. Tune in our episode 300 this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China! May the sorghum harvest this fall be abundant! Are we ok now, China?
NBA reverence to China
It all started on October 5 when Daryl Morey posted a Twitter image of the protest shout of Hong Kong protesters, “Fight for freedom, defend Hong Kong.” Although he later deleted the tweet, his social media gesture was captured by Chinese state media, such as Global Times and People's Daily and circulated in Weibo. Both media act as spokespersons for the Chinese Communist Party and cataloged the gesture as supporting the “separatist movement.” As planned, an online campaign was organized in China to demand a public apology.
In response to the Chinese clamor, Morey explained that his tweets only represent his opinions:
2 / I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
– Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
1 / I did not pretend that my tweet offended the fans of the Rockets and my friends in China. I was simply expressing an idea, based on an interpretation, of a complicated event. I had a lot of opportunity from that tweet to listen and evaluate other perspectives.
2 / I have always appreciated the significant support that Chinese fans and sponsors have given and I would expect those who are upset to know that my intention was not to offend or misunderstand them. My tweets are mine and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
NBA also issued an official statement in an attempt to lower spirits in China:
The NBA's original statement:
Recognize that (Morey's views) have deeply offended many in China, which is regrettable.
Translation it posted on Chinese social media:
Extremely disappointed in Morey's inappropriate statement. No doubt he's severely hurt the feelings of CN fans. pic.twitter.com/pi5PdQq3q9
– Yiqin Fu (@yiqinfu) October 7, 2019
Original NBA statement:
He acknowledges that (Morey's opinions) have deeply offended many in China, which is unfortunate.
Translation published in Chinese social media:
(I am) Extremely disappointed by Morey's inappropriate statement. No doubt he has seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese fans.
However, the statement was counterproductive with the NBA fans in the United States. Beto O'Rourke, the US presidential candidate, considered him “shameful,” while Republican Senator Marco Rubio also accused the NBA of throwing Morey “under the bus” to “protect access to the NBA market in China”:
TV networks, airlines, hotel chains, retailers & Hollywood already self censor.
Now private citizens risk losing their jobs if they offend China. https://t.co/DQOFdBkb1e
– Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 2019
NBA's careful emphasis on China was taken out of context when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image with the words “Fight for freedom, defend Hong Kong”.
This is greater than just the NBA. It is about China's growing ability to restrict freedom of expression here in the United States.
Television networks, airlines, hotel chains, retailers and Hollywood are already self-censoring.
Now, citizens lose their jobs if they offend China.
On the other hand, China believes that the NBA's apology is insufficient, so the Rockets' products were removed from Chinese shopping platforms, such as Taobao, Tian Mall and Jingdong. Chinese state media, such as China Central Television and internet giant Tencent also announced the suspension of NBA broadcasts after Morey's tweet.
Although the creators of South Park have clarified to China that they will not betray their ideals, the NBA decided to accept the ideological framework that China imposes on the rest of the world – which it also indicated in an open letter to the NBA fans of the Brooklyn Nets owner, Joseph Tsai, who agrees that Beijing's qualification of the protests in Hong Kong as a separatist movement de facto, and urged NBA fans to understand Chinese history.
Recently, many foreign brands have apologized to China for tensions in Hong Kong. As the conflicts deepen, more global corporations will be forced to choose between ratifying their values or accepting the Chinese group of values. In this game, there is no second chance: although the NBA tried to follow the middle ground, it ended up slapped by both sides.