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The notorious episode of South Park, which got the show banned in China, was screened on the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday evening.
“Band in China,” the most recent episode of the 23rd season of the Comedy Central staple, was shown on a projector screen in the city’s Sham Shui Po district. Pictures taken and shared via social media of the apparent impromptu screening showed a crowd gathered around watching.
“Tonight in Sham Shui Po, ?@SouthPark? episode ‘Band in China’ shown on street to large & appreciative audience. Street cinema’s been yet another important facet of #HK protests, w ‘Winter on Fire’ on Ukraine’s revolution & ‘1987: When the Day Comes’ on Korea’s esp popular,” journalist and author Kong Tsung-gan said via social media.
Tonight in Sham Shui Po, ?@SouthPark? episode ‘Band in China’ shown on street to large & appreciative audience. Street cinema’s been yet another important facet of #HK protests, w ‘Winter on Fire’ on Ukraine’s revolution & ‘1987: When the Day Comes’ on Korea’s esp popular. pic.twitter.com/dKzWYXP1xd
— Kong Tsung-gan / ??? (@KongTsungGan) October 8, 2019
It is unclear who was responsible for the screening. The Hong Kong protests have been organized in a deliberately leaderless and anonymous way, to protect participants from the government’s aggressive suppression.
The screening inspired considerable discussion on the online forums favored by the protest movement though. Many praised South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as “prophets,” and rare Western media figures willing to show “strong backbone” in response to the Chinese government’s efforts to stifle international free speech.
Others also noted that the screening was valuable because it provided a chance for older community members who don’t typically watch Western entertainment to get a sense of how some powerful voices overseas are supporting Hong Kong’s cause, although many others have bowed to Beijing’s business threats.
South Park made headlines around the world this week when The Hollywood Reporter reported that the show was banned in China and all mentions of the cartoon were scrubbed from the Chinese internet and streaming services.
The move came swiftly after the episode, which criticized both the country, and the entertainment industry for shaping art to bend to Chinese censors.
On Monday afternoon, show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone issued a statement with a faux apology about the ban that mentioned the NBA, which has also been ensnared in Chinese controversy.
“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the statement reads. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?”
The NBA has been criticized for its response to China penalizing the league over comments about the Hong Kong protesters, whereas Parker and Stone have been celebrated both for the episode, but also their blunt, unapologetic rebuttal.
The incident particularly resonated with the people of Hong Kong because of its direct takedown of the tactics Chinese government uses to silence dissenting voices, a playbook that has been repeated rolled out in Hong Kong. Major companies in the city, including its flagship airline Cathay Pacific and the MTR Corporation, which runs the territory’s vital subway and rail system, have succumbed to business pressures from Beijing by firing staff members who voiced support for the protests.
“I am laughing with tears in my eyes,” one anonymous user wrote on a protester forum in response to the episode.
South Park celebrated its milestone 300th episode Wednesday night, and true to form, doubled-down on the controversy. One of subplots of the the new episode, titled “SHOTS!!!,” revolved around the phrase, “Fuck the Chinese government.”
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