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'Uncle Roger' comedian ignites China censorship row with deleted video

Hong Kong

A UK-BASED comedian has sparked a censorship row after he apologised to Chinese fans and removed a video featuring a fellow YouTube star who had been critical of Beijing.

Malaysian-born stand-up Nigel Ng has become a viral sensation in recent months with his character "Uncle Roger", an alter-ego based on a disapproving middle-aged man who critiques bad attempts at making Asian cuisine. His video of a horrified Uncle Roger watching a BBC presenter butcher fried rice has racked up more than 20 million views on his YouTube channel. The video was also widely ripped and shared inside China.

But Mr Ng now finds himself at the centre of a storm over digital content creators bowing to Chinese censorship - even on platforms that cannot be accessed inside the authoritarian mainland. The comedian's presence in China is relatively small: his account on the Twitter-like Weibo platform has just 125,000 followers compared to the three million subscribers on YouTube, a website which is blocked by China's censors.

On Tuesday, Mr Ng posted a message on Weibo announcing that he had deleted a video which featured Mike Chen, a popular American food blogger and YouTuber.

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"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," Mr Ng wrote.

During the video, Mr Ng and Mr Chen review another food presenter's attempts to make dumplings. There is no discussion of politics. But Mr Chen is frequently critical of Beijing on his own social media platforms, writing posts about human rights abuses in Hong Kong and against China's Uighur Muslim minority. He also highlights Beijing's pursuit of the Falun Gong, a religious sect that has been banned by mainland authorities.

Mr Chen decried the decision to delete the video and said it illustrated China's growing sway over artists beyond its borders. AFP

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