What’s Going On with Guo Degang, Now China’s Most Reviled Comedian?

Shanghaiist provides a succinct synopsis of the controversy over popular comedian Guo Degang, who has been reviled by the public and media after one of his associates allegedly beat up a reporter trying to report on him:

Things seemed to move so quickly against Guo, that by the time the smoke began to clear on who did what to whom, it already appeared to be too late for his career.

The official version is that a BTV investigation into whether Guo’s Beijing villa encroached onto “public green space” turned nasty when a reporter was allegedly beaten up by Li Hebiao, a protégé of Guo’s. The comedian himself then turned up the heat with an incendiary attack on the media during a show, calling hacks “whore-respondents” and “green-light” prostitutes. As the public spat intensified, events began to turn against Guo.

So the media, freshly emboldened from a recent – and justified – triumph over censorship, nobly took on a famous bully – and claimed another scalp.

In fact, it was more of an ugly and undignified witch-hunt: the cancellation of performances at Guo’s theatres, for example, was not a voluntary reaction to public pressure but rather a state-backed crackdown on Guo himself. The fact that Guo – whose earthy, populist reinvigoration of cross-talk culture has previously copped accusations of lewdness – ended up being caught up in the Hu Jintao-backed “Sān sú ‘Three Vulgarities’ campaign’ (which he had himself satirized) only increased public distaste when People’s Daily tried to depict this as an example of in China.

Now his books have been yanked from (most) shelves in Beijing and Tianjin (his hometown), his theatres have had their licenses revoked and he has been airbrushed from state television. How is this a paragon of freedom? And what on earth has the government got to do with a spat between him and some reporters?

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