Winnie the Pooh, the tubby bear from A.A. Milne’s children’s books, has become the latest target of China’s Great Firewall.
Censors started deleting online content mentioning Winnie the Pooh over the weekend. Attempts to post the character’s name in Chinese returned the message “content is illegal,” the Financial Times reported.
A public WeChat post, citing the Ministry of Culture as source of information, said that the ban has been placed because of references to a Chinese leader.
The post, however, was taken down by WeChat for “violations of relevant laws and regulations,” Quartz noted.
Neither the government nor internet platforms specified the reason behind the censorship, but netizens seemed certain that it all stems from a 2013 meme that compared Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.
Xi met former U.S. President Barack Obama in June of the above mentioned year, and a photo showing the two walking together was put next to a still of Pooh walking with his friend Tigger.
The image spread across Chinese social media. The following year, a photo of Xi shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum was compared to a still of Pooh shaking hands with his donkey friend Eeyore.
In 2015, a photo of Xi standing through a car roof — yet again compared to a Pooh toy car — became the “most censored image” of the year, Global Risk Insights said.
For now, the scope of the ban seems unknown. Some were reportedly able to bypass censors by routing their web traffic abroad.