TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Images of the seemingly cuddly and innocuous Winnie the Pooh have been blocked over the weekend on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, its messaging app WeChat, and even the ancient messaging tool QQ, as the lead-up to the major communist powwow in Beijing intensifies.
There has been no official explanation provided by the Chinese government, but the FT cited observers as saying that the banishing of the children's book character has to do with previous mocking comparisons made online between China's rotund President Xi Jinping and the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.
Held only once every five years, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will take place this fall. Though it will not likely change Xi's status as the top leader of the party, changes in the other positions could act as a bellwether indicating Xi's status as top leader for years to come.
Image of Pooh in a car next to Xi in his limo has also been banned. (Image from lihkg.com)
During such sensitive leadership changes, Beijing always seeks to silence any inkling of dissent, no matter how great or small. Thus, it seems poor little Pooh is just too much of a threat to Xi's image as a man fit enough to be supreme leader for another five years.
The first light-hearted comparison between Xi and Pooh reportedly first surfaced in 2013 when Obama met with the Chinese leader, and netizens compared the former to Pooh's lanky friend Tigger. A similar comparison was made with Xi as Pooh and Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe as Eeyore, the sad donkey. An image of Xi riding through the roof of a parade car with a picture of Winnie in a little toy car super imposed on top was named the "most censored image of 2015" by political consultancy Global Risk Insights."
This time around, event attempts to search for Winnie's name in Chinese characters on Weibo generate a message stating "content is illegal."
Beijing has been seeking to strengthen its Great Firewall of China since Xi came to power during the last national congress meeting, and reports surfaced last week that orders have been issued to the country's three biggest Telcos, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom to block access to all VPNs by February 1st next year. The Chinese Communist Party has issued a denial of the reports, but it is a curious denial as it appears to actually confirm the report.