China fines comedy company over $2m for denigrating its army

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Chinese authorities, on Wednesday, fined a comedy company 14.7 million Yuan ($2.13 million), accusing it of “harming society’’ after a military joke made by one of its comedians.

The fine was imposed by Beijing arm of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism Bureau, saying it would fine Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media Co 13.35 million Yuan.

The bureau also said it would confiscate 1.35 million Yuan in “illegal gains’’ from the firm after discovering that a recent show by Li Haoshi, who performs under the name House, had breached rules.

The Chinese public has been divided over the incidents, as there are disagreements  over what sort of jokes were inappropriate.

With the increasing popularity of performances such as stand-up comedy the limits of appropriate content have become controversial as authorities say it must promote core socialist values.

Li went viral on Chinese social media earlier this week after a member of the audience posted online a description of a joke he had made at a live stand-up set in Beijing on May 13, describing it as demeaning to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Li, in the joke, recounted seeing two stray dogs he had adopted chase a squirrel and said it reminded him of the phrase “have a good work style, be able to fight and win battles’’, a slogan Chinese President Xi Jinping used in 2013 to praise the PLA’s work ethic.

Read also: China expels Canadian diplomat in retaliatory move

The Beijing cultural bureau said further: “We will never allow any company or individual use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA.’’

It also said that the Xiaoguo Culture would be barred from staging any future shows in Beijing.

Responding to the penalty, Xiaoguo Culture blamed the incident on major loopholes in management, adding that it had terminated Li’s contract.

Founded in Shanghai in 2015, Xiaoguo Culture’s popularity has grown in sync with China’s embrace of stand-up comedy and is known for raising the profile of hundreds of local comedians.  Though one of the China’s best-known, the company and its artists have fallen foul of authorities before.

The company was fined 200,000 Yuan in July 2021, for publishing advertisements that featured a comedian endorsing a lingerie brand with comments said to objectify women.

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