HBO website is down in China after John Oliver skewers Xi

The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (Bloomberg pic)

NEW YORK: Chinese authorities appear to have blocked HBO’s website in that country following a critical segment about the nation’s president by comic host John Oliver.

HBO.com, which offers programming information but no-shows, was unavailable to internet users in China, according to Greatfire.org, a watchdog group. A Bloomberg reporter in the country also was unable to access the TV and film production company’s website as of Tuesday morning. The watchdog Cyberspace Administration of China and the State Council Information Office didn’t immediately respond to faxes requesting comments.

HBO programming is available in China at some hotels catering to international travellers and the company licenses some shows to the streaming service of Tencent Holdings Ltd., the country’s largest social media company. That service hasn’t been affected, although China’s Twitter-like Weibo service has been blocking users from sending posts with “John Oliver” in them.

US-based television and movie production companies have been pushing for more access to China’s fast-growing market for filmed entertainment.

On a recent “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” episode, the comic criticized President Xi Jinping for amassing political power and censoring online dissent about him, including banning references to Winnie the Pooh, which has been used to mock the Chinese president based on a perceived resemblance to the cartoon character.

Searches of Oliver’s name and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” in both Weibo and Baidu, the popular search engine, are still working, but the results appeared to be outdated as of Tuesday morning.

A spokesman for HBO, which is owned by AT&T Inc., declined to comment.