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John Oliver mocks China’s president, gets scrubbed from Weibo

They didn’t even have to snap their fingers to make him disappear from China’s internet.

Young man holds a smart device while using Weibo app
Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, is one of the country's most popular social media platforms.
studioEAST/Getty Images

After John Oliver roasted Chinese president Xi Jinping on Last Week Tonight, what happened next came as no surprise.

China's Twitter-equivalent Weibo moved to remove all mention of Oliver's episode where he mocked Xi and his rise to power, the New York Times reported Thursday.

CNET tried to publish a post mentioning "John Oliver" on Weibo, but the post was barred because it wasn't compliant with China's laws. 

Doing a quick search on "John Oliver" and "Xiao Jiong" (a Chinese nickname for the broadcaster that sounds like Little John), we were first redirected to a page saying the service was temporarily unavailable. When the pages finally loaded, no post mentioning the episode or the subsequent censorship could be found. Posts discussing earlier episodes were still available though.

A few posts did manage to escape the censors: When we searched Jiong Gan Lan (another Chinese nickname, this time one that loosely translates to John Olive), a few posts mentioning the censorship appeared, with one even featuring the original video. Searches for other topics loaded as usual.

China is notorious for its tight grip on the internet, forcing local social media platforms to implement self-censorship in order to stay compliant with the country's stringent laws. Foreign media such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are kept out of China, where the ruling party banishes talk it deems to undermine or criticise the government and its president. In one instance, cartoon bear Winnie the Pooh was removed from China's internet because users drew parallels between the bear and Xi. 

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