China issues $2M fine after comedian Li Haoshi cracks joke about the army

In World

Now that’s a tough crowd.

Chinese authorities issued a $2 million fine after a standup comic glibly compared his adopted stray dogs to the authoritarian government’s military.

Li Haoshi, who performs under the stage name House, made a joking reference to a slogan used to describe the People’s Liberation Army coined by Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

“Fine style of work, capable of winning battles,” he said about the dogs’ hunt for a squirrel while performing at the Century Theater in Beijing this weekend.

However, the seemingly innocuous joke prompted hardline officials to slap the arm of Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media that represents Li with a $1.91 million fine and said it could not collect the $189,000 in “illegal gains” that the comic earned for his two shows over the weekend.

“We will never allow any company or individual to wantonly slander the glorious image of the army on any stage in the capital city … or to make fun of serious subject matters,” Beijing regulators said in a statement, as they called on the entertainment industry to “correct their creative thinking.”

The huge fine imposed on Li Haoshi underscores the fine line comedians must tread in China’s increasingly restrictive and heavily censored entertainment industry.

Xiaoguo Culture chalked up the unpatriotic joke to “major loopholes in management” and terminated the contract of Li, who is one of the nation’s most popular performers.

Its comedy troupe was suspended indefinitely from staging shows in Beijing.

A separate police investigation had been opened into Li Wednesday after authorities said he “seriously insulted” the military and caused “bad social impact.”

Li had canceled his upcoming shows so he could “deeply reflect and reeducate myself,” he said in a Monday statement.

In 2021, China passed a law banning any insult and slander on military personnel.

The law had previously been used to sentence a reporter who questioned China’s role in the Korean War to seven months in prison, according to CNN.

Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army seen in a 2020 Beijing ceremony.
Chinese soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army seen in a 2020 Beijing ceremony.
Getty Images

A Chinese woman who took to social media to question Li’s punishment in a post that referred to troops with a dog emoji had also been arrested Tuesday.

“No blasphemy will be allowed for the military personnel’s dignity,” police reportedly said in a statement.

With Post wires

Read More: China issues $2M fine after comedian Li Haoshi cracks joke about the army

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