Chinese police detained a woman for posting online in support of the comedian who was punished for making a joke that authorities said insulted the Chinese military.
According to state media, the 34-year-old woman, reportedly surnamed Shi, admitted to police that she had posted “inappropriate” comments about Chinese soldiers.
Shi’s post was in reaction to the stiff punishment delivered to Li Haoshi, also known as House, over a joke about two dogs chasing a squirrel reminding him of one of Xi Jinping’s military slogan. After an audio recording of the joke went viral, Beijing police launched an investigation under a 2021 law which criminalised insulting China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.
“We will never allow any company or individual use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA,” China’s ministry of culture and tourism bureau said.
His employer was fined £1.68m. Related hashtags were viewed more than 2bn times, with some comments supportive of the comic. Li later apologised on Weibo, which is strictly monitored and censored, and said he felt “deeply guilty and regretful” about the joke, before his account was suspended.
On Tuesday, in a post that appears to have been taken down, Shi posted: “Why should HOUSE be banned? Aren’t all soldier brothers just dog brothers?”
The Global Times reported she was put in administrative detention, which allows police to hold someone for up to 15 days without charge for a minor public order offence.
On Weibo, news about Shi had been read about 4m times by Friday, with most comments generally angry at her for supporting Li.
“Without the military, how could you have a stable life today? You are not grateful for your words, you are not a human being!” said one.
“They never thought that they would be insulted by some bad-minded youngsters years later for having defended the country,” said another.
The furore over Li’s joke has prompted some comedy operators to cancel shows, and spread fear among performers about crossing government lines.
One overseas Chinese comic said Li’s joke had nothing to do with politics, and that the case made her feel “shocked and desperate”.
“I didn’t think that the red line would be so easily crossed and that there would be no mercy when it was,” said the comic, who requested anonymity.
“Even internet users, who have no public influence, are being pursued … The whole atmosphere has become not just official censorship, but [also] self-censorship and mutual censorship. For a long time, in this way, one thinks and creates with fear. I feel that all areas of creativity and expression have no room for survival.”
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