One of the things that have become too politically sensitive for Chinese social media lately is the fictional character of Winnie the Pooh.
Posts on China’s Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo were censored during the weekend to exclude the famous fictional bear’s Chinese name, and a number of animated gifs featuring Winnie the Pooh was removed from messaging app WeChat.
Chinese officials gave no official explanation, but observers suggest it might have something to do with past comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the chubby bear created by the English author AA Milne that went viral.
The ban is the latest activity in the online crackdown before this fall’s Communist party congress which will result in key political appointments.
“Historically, two things have been not allowed: political organizing and political action. But this year a third has been added to the list: talking about the president,” said Qiao Mu, Assistant Professor of Media at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Qiao said people were detained after posting remarks about the president online.
“I think the Winnie issue is part of this trend,” he added.
Efforts to post Winnie’s name in Chinese characters on Weibo resulted in the message “content is illegal”, although some users seemed to have succeeded in evading the block.
Forbidden words are often added to censors’ blacklists during big political events, but these are typically directly connected. Chinese social media is rich with euphemisms and jokes used to evade the censors.
Comparisons between Xi and Winnie the Pooh first appeared in 2013 during Xi’s visit to the then US President Barack Obama. A photo of the taller and thinner Obama walking with Xi was combined with a picture of Winnie the Pooh and his tall and thin friend Tigger and the comparison stayed.
In 2014, the comparison extended to Xi’s meeting with Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was pictured as sad donkey Eeyore alongside Winnie the Pooh.
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