Has Winnie the Pooh done something to anger China’s censors?
Some mentions of AA Milne’s loveable but slow-witted bear with a weakness for honey have been blocked on Chinese social networks.
Authorities did not explain the clampdown, but the self-described “bear of very little brain” has been used in past memes comparing him to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
Posts bearing the image and the Chinese characters for Winnie the Pooh were still permitted on the Weibo social media platform Monday. But comments referencing “Little Bear Winnie” – Pooh’s Chinese name – turned up error messages saying the user could not proceed because “this content is illegal”.
Winnie the Pooh stickers have also been removed from WeChat’s official sticker gallery, but user-generated gifs of the bear are still available on the popular messaging app.
Comparisons between Xi and Pooh first emerged in 2013, after Chinese social media users began circulating pictures of Pooh and his slender tiger friend Tigger beside a photograph of Xi walking with Barack Obama, then the US president.
In 2014, a photograph of Xi shaking hands with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was matched with an image of Pooh gripping the hoof of his gloomy donkey friend Eeyore.
In 2015, the political analysis portal Global Risk Insights said a picture of Xi standing up through the roof of a parade car paired with an image of a Winnie the Pooh toy car was “China’s most censored photo” of the year.
China’s ruling Communist party is highly sensitive to comical depictions of its leader, particularly as Xi attempts to consolidate power ahead of a key party congress later this year.
On Monday many Chinese social media users were testing the boundaries of the restrictions imposed on the bear who groans “oh, bother” when things don’t go his way.
“Poor Little Winnie,” one Weibo user wrote. “What did this adorable honey-loving bear ever do to provoke anyone?”