Correction appended July 17, 03:00 ET
No, that’s not a joke headline.
Winnie the Pooh is arousing the wrath of socialist censors Beijing. And it’s not the first time he’s done it.
Over the weekend, Chinese censors blocked users of WeChat and Weibo, China’s bigger-than-Twitter microblogging platform, from using the name of the most famous resident of the Hundred Acre Wood in the comment section of posts.
Posts comparing Chinese president Xi Jinping to the cartoon bear — a longstanding joke in China — were also taken down.
Social media users first pointed out a comic likeness between Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Disney’s rendering of A.A. Milne’s famous character in 2013. To many, an image of the Xi walking beside U.S. President Barack Obama bore a resemblance to an image of Winne the Pooh walking beside Tigger. Another Pooh-Xi comparison became China’s most censored image of 2015 according to political consultancy Global Risk Insights.
Chinese social media users have long relied on euphemisms such as the Pooh-Xi joke to skirt the country’s strict censorship system.
The latest Pooh ban appears to be part of a larger tightening of state control in the run up to this fall’s Communist Party Congress. Various virtual private networks, or VPNs — which can be used to access prohibited sites — have also been banned.
Correction: This story has been edited to reflect the fact that some images of Winnie the Pooh are still searchable on Chinese social media.