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HBO’s Website Remains Blocked in China, but Its Shows Aren’t

HBO’s website remained blocked in China on Wednesday after comedian John Oliver mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping in a recent episode of his talk show “Last Week Tonight.” But Chinese viewers continue to be able to watch HBO shows such as “Games of Thrones” via the streaming platform Tencent, and Oliver’s name can still be searched on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Chinese Internet users who tried to access HBO.com Wednesday morning found themselves stuck on a blank page telling them the website could not be found. Attempts to visit HBO Asia’s website also faced obstacles as users could access the site but could not load the content.

Weibo users, on the other hand, kept testing the waters by creating posts mentioning Oliver’s name. Posts containing Oliver’s name were not scrubbed, but mentions of the show could not be found.

In a 20-minute segment on the June 17 edition of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver satirized a number of issues concerning China under Xi’s leadership, including Xi’s life-term presidency and his vaunted “Belt and Road” development initiative. The talk-show host also showed memes comparing Xi with Winnie the Pooh.

Since coming to power in 2013, Xi has steadily consolidated power through tighter control of culture and the media. He has lectured artists and creatives about using the arts and culture to serve the country. And since he extended his tenure as president to a lifetime term earlier this year, China has cracked down on film and television content by restructuring its censorship board and placing film and television directly under the Communist Party’s propaganda department.

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