Israel on Thursday removed a coronavirus public service announcement after Chinese officials deemed the ad as offensive and demanded it be removed.
The Health Ministry published the video starring comedian Yossi Gavni only two days ago, with the ad generating millions of views prior to its removal.
The video depicts COVID-19 as a character that goes by the name of "Covidon", a 19-year-old man who lives in central Israel after coming from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered.
The character, who is modeled after the mythical god of desire and love Cupid and said to be his brother, claims that "although he comes from China, he works just fine" – referring to the widespread stigma that products made in the Asian country are of subpar quality and tend to break easily.
In the ad it is implied that Covidon is here to spread the virus, taking the viewer through a host of different real-life scenarios in which the pathogen could be transmitted between people.
Chinese officials contacted the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to lodge a complaint about the ad.
Israeli Ambassador to China Zvi Heifetz also contacted the Health Ministry and asked for the video be taken down. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein complied with the request and ordered the removal of the video.
The Health Ministry later issued a statement confirming the video was taken down by the request of the Foreign Ministry.
The Chinese Communist Party is notorious for its strict domestic censorship policies, however, more and more voices in the West warn that China uses its massive political and economic outreach to reshape global public opinion of it and censor outside criticism.
A recently published report has found that the Chinese government’s influence on Hollywood is posing a serious threat to free expression.
The 94-page study from the anti-censorship group Pen America described the numerous instances in which movie studios and filmmakers were coerced by Chinese pressures to make changes to "cast, plot, dialogue and settings" in an “effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials” in major blockbuster releases.