A popular Chinese comedian was reminded this week that some jokes in the communist country are strictly off-limits.
Li Haoshi made a joke during a Saturday stand-up routine involving his two dogs chasing a squirrel, the BBC reported.
The punchline will likely go over most Westerners’ heads, but it evidently struck a nerve with President Xi Jinping’s administration.
“Other dogs you see would make you think they are adorable. These two dogs only reminded me of … ‘Fight to win, forge exemplary conduct,'” Li said, according to the report.
The problem with the joke is that it poked fun at a slogan Xi introduced in 2013 for the Chinese army.
Li’s joke went viral on social media, sparking a government investigation.
The Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau accused Li of “severely insulting” the People’s Liberation Army and said his joke had a “vile societal impact,” The New York Times reported.
The Times gave the translation of Li’s punchline as “Maintain exemplary conduct, fight to win.”
“We will not allow any company or individual to wantonly slander the glorious image of the People’s Liberation Army,” the government said in a statement, according to the Times.
The comedy studio that employs Li was reportedly slapped with a $2 million fine and its performances in Beijing were “indefinitely suspended.”
The military slogan quoted by Li was “first uttered in 2013 by [Xi], who also chairs the military, when he set out a list of qualities he commanded from the nation’s army,” CNN reported. “It has since been repeated at various official occasions and in state media.”
The BBC reported that Li has apologized for the joke, saying, “I feel deeply shamed and regretful. I will take responsibility, stop all activities, deeply reflect, learn again.”
His statement was posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, where Li had more than 136,000 followers before his account was suspended this week.
In 2021, China passed a law banning insults and slanderous statements regarding its military, according to CNN.
That law was put to the test when a journalist questioned the country’s role in the Korean War “as depicted in a blockbuster patriotic movie,” the outlet reported. That person was convicted and sentenced to seven months in prison.
Li’s troubles may not be over.
The Times reported that Beijing police said they are investigating “a man with the surname Li who had ‘seriously insulted the People’s Liberation Army in the middle of a performance.'”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.