China has banned all mentions of the honey-loving storybook bear Winnie the Pooh. Mentions of Winnie the Pooh were scrubbed from China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, and from the messaging program called WeChat. Users whose posts included the name of the character were also banned, Time Magazine reports.
Vox reports that when users typed in the words Winnie the Pooh, it generated an automatic message that read, “Content is illegal.”
Animated GIFs and artwork featuring Winnie were also removed from WeChat, but user-generated images were left untouched.
This recent act of censorship seems to have been triggered by the fact that memes comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh have popped up in the past. As the Inquisitr previously reported, in 2013, some Chinese web users compared a picture of Xi Jinping and then U.S. President Barack Obama to an illustration of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.
The photo of Obama and the Chinese president was taken at a summit in California as they strolled along the Sunnylands estate. But Chinese social media users soon started posting the image next to images of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger — and the meme was born. The Chinese government soon shut down the spread of the images by banning Winnie the Pooh from their social web and from search engine results.
Since then, comparing Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh has become a running joke among on Chinese social media. According to Vox, in 2014, a photo of the Jian Xi Ping shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also got a Winnie the Pooh comparison. This time it was compared to an illustration of Winnie shaking hands with his friend Eeyore, the donkey. In 2015, a photo of Xi waving to a crowd from the sunroof of a car got the meme treatment as well. It was placed next to an image of a Winnie the Pooh figurine in a toy car. This became the most censored image in China in 2015.
Winnie the Pooh hasn’t been the only recent target of Chinese online censorship. As Time reports, the Chinese government is tightening its control of the state’s image in the lead-up to the Communist Party Congress later this year. Virtual Private Networks (also known as VPNs), which some Chinese citizens use to visit banned websites, have also fallen prey to this intensified crackdown.
As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Oh Bother!”
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[Featured Image by Michele Tantuss, Michael Buckner/Getty Images]