Winnie-the-Pooh, the beloved children’s icon, has been blacklisted in China following comparisons between the pot-bellied bear and China’s president Xi Jingping.
The character’s name in Chinese was censored in posts on Sina Weibo, a social media platform similar to Twitter, while a collection of Winnie-the-Pooh gifts vanished from social messaging service WeChat, according to the newspaper.
Any attempts to post Pooh’s Chinese name on Weibo prompted a message: “Content is illegal.”
Memes pairing Pooh with Xi first cropped up in 2013 after Xi took a stroll beside former President Barack Obama, whose thin frame reminded some of Tigger, Pooh’s taller companion.
When Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endured one of the more awkward handshakes in history netizens responded with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore shaking hands.
And then there was the time President Xi popped his head out of the roof of his special Red Flag limousine to inspect the troops – a photo appeared online of a toy Winnie the Pooh popping out of his own little car.
The blocking of Winnie the Pooh might seem like a bizarre move by the Chinese authorities but it is part of a struggle to restrict clever bloggers from getting around their country’s censorship.
China’s government has made no comment about the ban, but it comes amid heightened sensitivities ahead of the Communist Party’s national congress – a meeting of the upper echelons of the party held every five years.