The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
All websites: Delete the episode “Band in China” from the 23rd season of U.S. animated show “South Park.” Close relevant comment boards, put [“South Park”] on banned search keyword list, and immediately remove relevant resources. (October 4, 2019) [Chinese]
The Comedy Central animated show “South Park” has been banned in China following the release of the second episode of its 23rd season, “Band in China,” which criticized Hollywood producers and other American corporations for acquiescing to Chinese censorship demands. Daniel Victor reports for The New York Times:
Last week’s episode, called “Band in China,” appeared to cross a new line for the Chinese authorities. On Baidu Tieba, a popular discussion platform, searches for “South Park” on Tuesday returned the following message: “According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open.”
Searches for the show were also fruitless on Youku, a video hosting service, which similarly cited “the relevant law and regulation.” On Weibo, the country’s most popular social network, posts mentioning the show could not be found. [Source]
Following the ban, the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, issued a mock apology, mirroring those of other foreign corporations and celebrities who are penalized by China for expressing political views which differ from the Communist Party’s. They wrote:
“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 like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?” [Source]
The full “Band in China” episode can be viewed on Comedy Central. A trailer with Chinese subtitles is on YouTube:
The “South Park” episode was released, and banned, just as another free speech controversy erupted over a tweet by Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey. After tweeting support for ongoing protests in Hong Kong, Morey became the focus of wrath from nationalist Chinese internet users and the Chinese government, which has since imposed bans on the Rockets and the NBA as a whole. Outrage from American fans over the NBA’s initial tepid response led to a more forceful statement this morning by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said:
Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.
[…] It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.
However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way. [Source]
State media responded with their own interpretation of “free speech”:
@CCTV sports channel statement: “We express strong discontent and objection to @NBA CEO Adam Silver’s support to @dmorey‘s right to #FreeSpeech. Opinions that challenge sovereignty and social stability don’t fall in the scope of free speech.” #FreeHongKong pic.twitter.com/BvnNsMajyS
— Alex Lam 林偉聰 (@lwcalex) October 8, 2019