Winnie the Pooh, the world-beloved cuddly, honey-loving teddy bear has become the latest victim of China’s drive towards online censorship. A fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne has been banned from China’s cyberspace. Chinese internet user recently discovered that they could no longer make posts associated with Winnie the Pooh on social media platform and the reason for doing so is equally bizarre.
Chinese censor first started blocking Winnie the Pooh when posts began comparing the character with Chinese President Xi Jinping back in 2013. A newspaper printed a picture showing the cute bear with his friend Tigger next to a photo of Xi Jinping walking with then-US President Barack Obama in 2013. The post went viral and netizens started posting photos of Jinping in similar poses by putting pictures side by side.
In 2015, a user posted a parade photo of Xi Jinping with the toy of Pooh, the picture became “China’s most censored photo” of the year. The post went viral but later it was removed by the Chinese government. Out of many pictures, one depicted handshake between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was matched with an image of Pooh with his gloomy donkey friend Eeyore.
The recent ban on Pooh came to light especially after the Financial Times covered the topic in a front-page story on Monday. If one sends these images on WeChat which is China’s most popular social media platform, other users won’t see the picture. Emojis featuring Pooh and his friends were also removed from the platform.
The newly increased censorship could indicate China’s tightening control on its internet. The pictures were clearly meant to be swallowed with a pinch of humour, but it did not go well with the government.
According to CNN reports, as the ruling Communist Party prepares to hold a major national congress later this year that will decide a new leadership line-up, Xi continues to tighten his grip over the world’s most populous nation - with 731 million internet users, according to government statistics.
Some internet users have pointed out a recent photo as a possible trigger for the latest restrictions. In the picture, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and his wife are seen with a Pooh mug.
The Chinese government has not given any official explanation as to why the cute character has been banned by the government.