China imposes $2M fine for stand-up’s joke seen as mocking the military

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China has fined a comedian’s company approximately $2 million after he made a joke that was seen by some as mocking the military. 

Multiple outlets reported Wednesday that the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism fined the firm of popular comedian Li Haoshi, who uses the stage name House, over comments he made during a show this weekend. 

In his appearance, Li mentioned he had adopted two stray dogs he was watching chase a squirrel. He said the scene made him think of a phrase used by by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that roughly translates to “Fight well, win the battle,” according to Reuters. 

Audio released on Chinese social media websites show the audience laughed in response, but one audience member made a complaint, and the joke soon received criticism for being seen as disrespectful. 

Li was suspended from the Xiaoguo Culture Media firm in Shanghai, which had represented him, and his account on the Chinese social media site Weibo was suspended after he posted an apology, saying he felt “deeply guilty and regretful.” 

CNN reported that a subsidiary of the firm was fined $1.91 million and it would have to give up $189,000 in “illegal gains” from Li’s performance. 

The bureau said Li, his agent and other relevant staff will face additional investigation following the “seriously insulting” comments that caused “bad social impact.” 

“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 said.

The phrase that Li referred to during his performance was first used by Chinese President Xi Jinping in creating qualities that he expects from the military, according to CNN. 

China adopted a law to ban defamation of the military in 2021.

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