It was reported last week that Nigel Ng, best known to his fans as “Uncle Roger,” became the latest victim of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censorship crackdown on comedians. Following a joke he made about Beijing, he was banned from Chinese social media.
‘Good country, good country’
According to Malaysian news outlet Malay Mail, three of Ng’s social media accounts including Weibo, billibili and Douyin were suspended, with his Weibo account — which has more than 400,000 followers — now reading, “The user has been banned from posting as he has violated relevant laws and regulations.”
The suspension came after Ng made jokes during a live show about China’s surveillance apparatus and its leader Xi Jinping. On May 18, he posted a preview of his performance as part of an upcoming comedy special called “The Haiyaa Special.”
In the clip, he learned that a man in his audience was from Guangzhou, China, which he replied by saying, “Good country, good country. We have to say that now.” He continued joking about how he was being monitored by Beijing via his smartphone, before chanting out mocking praises to Xi Jinping as he tapped his phone.
“They [are] all listening. All our phones tap into it. Long live President Xi. Long live President Xi,” he said.
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Afterwards, he proceeded to address a few spectators from Taiwan, poking fun, saying that Taiwan is not a real country.
“I hope one day you rejoin the motherland. One China,” he joked. At the end of the clip, he asked the audience member from Guangzhou to assure the authorities of his good will.
“Uncle Roger good comrade, good comrade,” he feigned. “Don’t make him disappear, please.”
After reposting the clip on Twitter, he added the caption, “For some reason this clip got a ton of views this past weekend. I wonder why.”
Despite the comedic intentions, Ng’s humor did not sit well with the CCP, which has proceeded to ban the comedian from his Chinese social media accounts.
However, this was not Ng’s first comments on China’s draconian laws.
In January 2021, on Twitter, he featured alongside YouTuber Mike Chen, who is renowned for his opposing views on Beijing and its treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. Following the video they did together, where they critiqued a dumpling recipe, Ng made a public apology to his Chinese fans on Weibo for not being “aware of his political thoughts and his past incorrect remarks about China.”
Nigel Ng made a name for himself with his middle-aged “Uncle Roger” persona, delivering his signature “haiyaa’s” in a Cantonese-like accent. Three years ago, he began his rise to stardom by posting a YouTube video of him making fun of BBC host Hersha Patel for her fried egg recipe, after washing and draining cooked rice in a colander.
Ng’s Haiyaa Special will premiere on June 4, the anniversary of the tragic protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
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Crackdown on comedy
While Ng may only suffer account suspensions, comedians in China are not so lucky. Anyone who is suspected of insulting the CCP could face a lengthy jail term.
Two weeks ago, comedian Li Haoshi was arrested after “severely insulting” the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In a stand-up performance in Beijing, he made a joke by comparing his two adopted dogs to President Xi’s slogan of “Fight to win, forge exemplary conduct” for the military. The company who hired him was fined 14.7 million Chinese yuan (US $2.1 million).
Li apologized for his comments, but he is still faces a potential three year jail sentence.
“We will never allow any company or individual use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA,” the Beijing arm of China’s culture ministry said.