China has banned the most popular rage comics website in the country for poking fun at a communist hero. Under the “Heroes and Martyrs Protection Act,” passed by the National People’s Congress and enacted on May 1st, it’s now illegal to make jokes at the expense of communist heroes or martyrs — those distinctions belonging, of course, to the state.
The comics site Baozou, which had more than 10 million followers on the Chinese social media site Weibo and over 245,000 subscribers on Youtube, was so popular that its rage comic 7723 was turned into a Netflix film called Next Gen, which is currently in development. The animated film features voice acting from Jason Sudeikis, Michael Peña, Constance Wu, David Cross, and Charlyne Yi.
Baozou incurred the wrath of censors because of a video posted on the site in 2014 and recently reposted on news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. The video depicted someone wearing a “rage face” mask mocking Dong Cunrui, a young communist soldier who blew himself up to destroy a Nationalist party bunker during the Chinese Civil War.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, which is China’s main internet regulator, said in a statement on Thursday evening that it “summoned the executives of several internet platform companies this afternoon and asked them to strictly apply the cyberspace regulation.” In response, Weibo said it had shut down 16 accounts, including Baozou’s, for showing disrespect to communist heroes.
Weibo deleted Baozou’s account on Thursday evening, along with other platforms including Jinri Toutiao, China’s popular news aggregator, and the video platform Youku. China has a rich history of censoring animations, from Winnie the Pooh for resembling President Xi Jinping, to Peppa Pig for being a subversive “gangster” icon, to the parody app Neihan Duanzi for having “misleading and vulgar content.”
Ren Jian, the CEO of the company behind Baozou, apologized on Thursday night. “The company is very grateful to the media and fans’ supervision and criticizing, so that we can see our deficiency clearly and do better in the future,” he said in a statement on Weibo in the since-deleted account.