Mentions of Winnie the Pooh have been blocked on Chinese social networks after the silly cartoon character was used to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Chinese censors didn’t explain why mentions of the “bear of very little brain” have been blocked, but Chinese social media users often compared their President to the cartoon character.
The block currently applies only to comments—images of Winnie the Pooh are still allowed on Chinese social media networks, The Telegraph reported.
Phrases such as “Little Bear Winnie” however are subject to censorship. People trying to comment with the blocked phrases get an error message claiming they won’t be allowed to post because “this content is illegal.”
As well as social networks, popular messaging app WeChat has also come under the state’s scrutiny. The cartoon bear’s images were deleted from WeChat’s “sticker gallery”, although GIFs created by the people are still in use.
Chinese social media users have started comparing their President Xi with Pooh Bear since 2013 after people posted an image Xi walking together with then-US President Barack Obama alongside a picture of Pooh and his tiger friend “Tigger”.
In later years, Xi was photographed shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—instantly sparking comparisons of Xi as Pooh with his donkey friend Eeyore.
A former Bejing Foreign Studies University professor, Qiao Mu claims the censorship of the bear was expected given the Communist Party’s sensitivity to the representation of its leader.
“It’s very murky what’s allowed and what isn’t, because officials never put out statements describing precisely what will be censored,” the scholar explained. He added how despite the block, some images of Winnie the Pooh are still being shared on Chinese social networks.