South Park landed in hot water with the Chinese government last Wednesday after airing an episode called "Band in China" that called out Hollywood for bending to Chinese censorship rules. Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the Chinese government is confirming that their block-hand is indeed strong by deleting every episode of the show from the internet in China.
In the episode, Randy goes to China in hopes of expanding his marijuana business. He ends up getting detained in a prison camp, where he encounters other Disney and Marvel cartoon characters like Winnie the Pooh. (The Pooh cameo is a reference to the Chinese government's actual crackdown on social media images and Winnie-the-Pooh franchise movies that started in 2017 after critics compared President Xi Jinping to the honey-loving bear.) Meanwhile, the rest of the South Park crew, not in China, gets frustrated as a movie about their new metal band keeps changing direction to fit Chinese standards.
The episode comes as Chinese censorship rules and heightened tension from Hong Kong protests have made it harder for America's entertainment giants like Disney to navigate the politics of the region. Disney's live-action Mulan remake, for example, became the center of a bitter controversy in August when lead actress Crystal Liu Yifei posted a statement supporting Hong Kong's military on Weibo. After a social media campaign called for a boycott of the movie, the Chinese government reportedly launched a counter-campaign to support the movie, framing it as a pro-Chinese government symbol. And just this weekend, after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, the NBA apologized for his statement when it looked as though China would stop broadcasting Houston Rockets games.
There's no telling whether China's moves will stop artists and celebrities from weighing in on the country's protests. But it's certainly drawing more attention to the censorship issues that have been bubbling up in the media for months.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.