Stand-up comic Nigel Ng, better known as Uncle Roger, had his audience in stitches as he mocked China, but Beijing wasn’t laughing.
The Malaysian comedian has been banned from China’s social media platform Weibo and his homepage on the video site Bilibili was placed “under suspension”.
The harsh reaction — likely at the behest of Beijing — came after Ng poked fun at China’s censorship and its policy towards the political status of Taiwan.
Ng questioned an audience member during a recent stand-up show in character as Uncle Roger, a stereotypical middle-aged Asian with an exaggerated accent who regularly goes viral online for his reviews of Asian food such as egg fried rice.
“Where you from?” Ng asked. “Are you from Boston?”
“Originally from Guangzhou [China],” the man replied.
“China, OK, China. Good country. Good country” Ng replied, sarcastically making a worried face as the audience roared with laughter.
“Phew, we have to say that now,” Ng added. “Correct? All the phone listening.”
“This nephew got a Huawei phone. They all listening.”
The man interjected, “I use Express VNP [virtual private network].”
“Don’t let your government hear that please,” Ng replied.
“All our phone tap into it. Long live President Xi, long live President Xi,” Ng joked, tapping his pocket.
“Uncle Roger social credit score going up.”
He then turned to Taiwan, a sensitive issue for Beijing.
“Any niece and nephew from Taiwan?” he asked, which prompted a cheer from the audience.
“Not a real country,” he joked as the crowd gasped and laughed.
“I hope one day you rejoin the motherland. One China!”
“Don’t clap too hard, this is not political show. Uncle Roger gonna get cancelled after tonight.
“Go write good report for Uncle Roger,” he continued.
“Dear CCP [Chinese Communist Party], Uncle Roger good comrade. “Don’t make him disappear please.”
His prediction was prescient as Beijing reacted by stopping his account from making further posts on Weibo.
A Weibo message stated the account was “currently in a state of being muted” and cited “violations of relevant laws and regulations”,” the Straits Times reports.
Ng’s clearly jokes hit a nerve with Beijing.
Huawei, which makes telecom equipment and was formerly a major smartphone producer before Trump administration imposed crippling restrictions, has been barred from installing infrastructure in numerous countries including Australia due to security concerns.
Regarding Taiwan, for years China has embarked on an attempt to internationally isolate the self-governing region and has promised reunification, by force if necessary.
Beijing heavily censors information in China, blocking information about anything it considers politically and ideologically sensitive with legislative and technological actions dubbed the Great Firewall.
The Social Credit System is a tracking system in place in China that can result in individuals and businesses being black-listed.
Ng is not the first comedian to suffer the wrath of Beijing.
Recently Chinese comedian Li Haoshi, known by his stage name House, made a joke with reference to the People’s Liberation Army.
He said he had adopted two stray dogs after moving to Shanghai. He said when the dogs chased a squirrel it reminded him of eight words. “Fine style of work, capable of winning battles.”
CNN reports that the phrase was said by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013.
The reaction was swift. Police in Beijing announced they had opened an investigation into Li, and that his performance had “seriously insulted” the military and caused a “bad social impact.”
Li quickly cancelled his performances and his entertainment company Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media apologised.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism said the company would be fined $2.87 million and deprived of $284,000 it made in “illegal gains” —referencing the income from his last two shows.
A woman with the surname Shi was arrested after questioning why Li had been arrested and making a post with a dog emoji with reference to Chinese soldiers.
“No blasphemy will be allowed for the military personnel’s dignity,” a police spokesman said following her arrest.