China has banned Swedish YouTube superstar PewDiePie for comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh. The ban comes amid a wave of controversy surrounding international chilling effects resulting from Chinese censorship efforts within the sports, entertainment and gaming worlds.
According to PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, the ban stems from an Oct. 16 video in which he shared and commented on a meme featuring the popular icon.
"I mean, the resemblance is uncanny," he said of the meme, which compared the bear to the Chinese president. Winnie the Pooh is banned in China, where people share images of the bear to portray the nation's president in a negative light.
In the video, he also commented on recent events involving Blizzard Entertainment's suspension of professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai "blitzchung" Chung after the gamer expressed support for Hong Kong while live on stream. Additionally, PewDiePie talked about how corporations frequently bow to Chinese censorship restrictions in an effort to enter the Chinese market.
Days later, on Oct. 19, the controversial YouTube star posted a video in which he claimed he was banned in China. In that video, the PewDiePie showed a screenshot of a Chinese internet search for "pewdiepie," for which there are no search results.
He claims the ban extends to Reddit-related forums in China as well as YouTube-related video searches in China.
"I'm laughing, but I'm sorry if you are in China and try to watch my videos," he said in the video. "That kind of sucks."
He goes on to say that he knew it would happen, specifically noting that German EDM DJ Zedd was banned for liking a South Park tweet.
That ban came after China banned the show South Park, which recently aired an episode critical of the country's policies. The episode is titled "Band in China."
Via Twitter, PewDiePie also noted that the name "PewDiePie" was awarded to China under Chinese copyright law in 2017. The document showed that the name would be used to sell a variety of garments, including wedding dresses.
China took copyright of Pewdiepie in 2017 without me being able to stop them anyway, guess they can't sell any more pewdiepie wedding dresses now lol pic.twitter.com/EkdWR63bYW— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) October 20, 2019
PewDiePie has a history of making jokes and sharing content that many consider inflammatory. Some organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have classified certain actions as "hate speech." The YouTuber recently rescinded a donation to the ADL after his fans criticized his contribution. Critics claim that the ADL tows, and in some cases, oversteps, a line between decrying hate speech and promoting outright censorship.
In the sports world, China recently backed out of several NBA deals in response to a tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. In that tweet, the executive shared his support for Hong Kong.
PewDiePie is an avid supporter of means to keep the internet free and open. This support extends to a partnership with NordVPN, which seeks to keep internet history protected against hackers and surveillance. He also streams exclusively on blockchain-based streaming platform DLive, which allows fans to support streamers with cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency presents a unique financial option because it's not controlled by a central governmental authority.
International relations with China remain tense as Hong Kong citizens engage in large-scale protests. The protests began after Hong Kong sought to enact an extradition agreement with China, which led to fears over China's assertion of control over the independent nation.