A Chinese stand-up comedian drew the ire of the country’s Communist government when he joked about the military during a recent show, which reportedly led to his arrest.
Li Haoshi was indicted for the prank at the expense of the People’s Liberation Army and the company that hired him was fined $1.2 million, the Washington Times reported.
“We will never allow any company or individual to use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA,” the Beijing arm of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism Bureau said in a statement this week.
Li was performing at Beijing’s Century Theater last week when she said she has had two stray dogs since leaving Shanghai for the country’s capital. She then said the dogs chased a squirrel before moving on to the punchline.
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“The other dogs you see would make you think they’re adorable,” reads a BBC translation of the jokes. “These two dogs just reminded me… ‘Fight to win, create exemplary conduct.'”
The phrase is a well-known Chinese Communist Party slogan linked to President Xi Jinping. After the joke went viral, an investigation was launched by the Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency and other agencies.
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Haoshi and the company that hired him have tried to distance themselves from the observation. On social media, Haoshi said he felt “deep remorse and regret” for using “an extremely inappropriate analogy to bring negative feelings and association to the public.”
Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media Co., the corporate crew that hired Haoshi, terminated her contract and was fined $2 million.
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People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, said comedians should limit their speech and that it is a mistake to put humor first. Authorities have also banned many of the talk shows that have provided a platform for comedians popular with young people in China.