Officials in China are cracking down on images of Winnie the Pooh proliferating on the internet. The lovable honey-chasing bear’s likeness was censored on the nation’s top social media platforms over the weekend.
The fictional bear is no longer allowed on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social media site, the Financial Times reported Sunday. When users attempted to write the Chinese characters for Winnie the Pooh’s name on Weibo, they received a message saying “content is illegal.” A set of gifs of the character were also removed from WeChat, a popular social messaging app.
No official explanation was given for the censorship of the bear. However, experts said the ban is likely due to netizens comparing the nation’s president with the bear. Images of President Xi Jinping have often been juxtaposed with the bear to show their likeness in images that have gone viral on the internet over the past few years.
“Historically, two things have been not allowed: political organizing and political action,” Qiao Mu, assistant professor of media at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Financial Times. “But this year a third has been added to the list: talking about the president. I think the Winnie issue is part of that trend.”
Qiao also said he was aware of social media users being detained after posting about the president on the internet.
After the president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had what appeared to be a rather awkward handshake, images of Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore quickly proliferated on the internet. As did images of Winnie popping his head out of his car — after the president popped his head similarly through the roof of his limousine during an inspection of troops. Another popular image mocked on social media was that of Xi walking with former U.S. President Barack Obama, alongside a picture of Winnie the Pooh walking next to Tigger. A top Twitter search relating to the…