What do Popeye the Sailor Man, Bugs Bunny and Scooby Doo have in common with Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese Democratic Party?
The answer is they are all banned in China. The lovable cartoon characters have evidently entered the lists of undesirable role models compiled by China's cultural commissars, who determine what is good for the masses and what is not. They disappeared from Chinese TV screens last month, after Beijing authorities banned Turner Broadcasting's TNT & Cartoon Network from broadcasting into mainland China.
"Their actions violated relevant Chinese rules," said an official from the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. "They know very well what they did." He did not explain further, and a spokeswoman for Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific in Hong Kong said it was mystified. "We're not an organisation that treats local regulations lightly, and China is absolutely no exception," she said.
"To the best of my knowledge we haven't received any information on this yet." The channel airs cartoons by day and old Hollywood classics at night and was available on cable to roughly 100,000 viewers.
China blocks the transmission of most foreign cable channels to domestic viewers, though hotels and foreign compounds may receive 18 foreign channels including CNN, BBC World Service, Japanese Wow Wow, Deutsche Welle, HBO and Star TV, Asia.
For Chinese children hooked on Porky Pig and Snagglepuss, the decision is an early lesson on the arbitrariness of Chinese government censorship. Time Warner Inc, which owns Turner Broadcasting, has had its problems with China. An edition of Time magazine was suppressed last year, on the very day Time Warner was hosting a conference for Chinese and world leaders in Shanghai, apparently for carrying articles by Chinese political exiles.
CNN disappeared from hotel channels during the 10th anniversary last year of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. One media analyst said Cartoon Network's exile may reflect a decision to block foreign children's programmes in China in favour of domestic cartoons, which are frequently patriotic in content.
In October, the government removed children's programming from a list of categories of foreign content that Chinese television stations were permitted to buy for rebroadcast.