Malaysian-born, UK-based comedian Nigel Ng has sparked a censorship row after he apologised to Chinese fans and removed a video featuring a fellow YouTuber who has been critical of Beijing.
Outside of his stand-ups, Ng is mostly known for his character “Uncle Roger“, the disapproving Asian uncle who critiques bad attempts at Asian food.
His video of Uncle Roger, who was horrified watching a BBC presenter butcher fried rice, went viral with over 20 million views on YouTube and was widely ripped and shared in China.
Now, the comedian finds himself at the centre of a storm surrounding content creators bowing to China’s censorship, even on platforms that cannot be accessed within the authoritarian mainland.
His presence in China is relatively small, and his followers on the Twitter-like app, Weibo, only has 125,000 followers compared to the three million followers he has on YouTube, which is banned in the country.
On Tuesday, Ng posted a message on Weibo announcing he has deleted the video that featured Mike Chen, a popular American food blogger and YouTuber.
“During the cooperation between me and the YouTuber, I wasn’t aware of his political thoughts and the incorrect remarks he had made on China,” he said, adding that the video with Chen created a “negative impact”.
The video, with copies still available online, sees Ng and Chen reviewing another food presenter’s attempts at making dumplings without any discussion of politics.
But Chen is known to be critical of Beijing on his social media platforms, writing about the abuse of human rights in Hong Kong as well as the treatment of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, including highlighting Beijing’s pursuit of the Falun Gong, a religious sect that has been banned by mainland authorities.
Chen decried Ng’s decision to delete the video, saying it illustrated China’s growing influence over artists beyond its borders.
“I do think that what happened here is the result of the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship, even if it wasn’t a direct censorship,”
“(China) uses many tactics to silence those who disagree with them or challenge them. They will use online mobs to bully or intimidate people. They will use their soft power to get people to self-censor because they are afraid of losing business in China or offending Chinese people,” he said.
Badiucao, a dissident Chinese artist based in Australia, posted a cartoon showing Ng’s Uncle Roger standing in front of a Chinese flag.
“The Chinese government makes it clear to all creators outside of China that the only way to have a share in its market inside wall is obedience,” Badiucao told AFP, accusing Ng of “self-censoring for renminbi (China’s official currency) from the Chinese market.”