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Taiwan premier urges China to up swine fever prevention while brandishing Pooh toy

Su Tseng-chang made the plea in a video uploaded to Facebook Tuesday morning

(Screencap of the video posted to Facebook)

(Screencap of the video posted to Facebook)

Taipei (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) uploaded a video to his Facebook fan page Tuesday morning in which he urges the Chinese government to bolster epidemic prevention measures while brandishing a Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toy.

The video largely seems intended to quell fears and address common concerns about the recent outbreak of African swine flu in China. Su encourages citizens to inform authorities as soon as possible if they see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, such as a pig carcass at the side of a road or on a riverbank.

Su reiterates that African swine fever is harmful to pigs but not humans, and people can still cook and consume pork worry-free over the New Year holidays. He also reassures followers that any foreign visitor caught by Customs that refuses to pay fines for carrying contraband pork products is denied entry to Taiwan as of Jan. 25.

The most notable part of the video, however, is when Su addresses China on the swine fever outbreak, saying, “I ask the Chinese government to please boost epidemic prevention measures, and openly announce any new developments on the matter. Neighbors ought to help, not harm each other.”

The premier does so while wielding a stuffed toy of Winnie-the-Pooh—a character whose likeness has been banned in China following the circulation of memes suggesting it bears an uncanny resemblance to President Xi Jinping.

The anthropomorphic bear has, over the past few years, gone from an innocent and lovable cartoon character to a political meme and protest symbol likely to land one in hot water in China. The Communist Party’s censorship organ continues to crackdown on the proliferation of Pooh imagery across social, television, film and even video game media.

Facebook and Twitter feeds in the Philippines were awash with pictures of Pooh in November last year as citizens protested Xi’s official state visit.

While Su may have been making a light-hearted joke, the video is likely to be viewed as antagonistic towards the Chinese government. The outbreak of African swine fever has already become politicized following accusations from Taiwanese authorities that China is withholding information about the epidemic, and Beijing criticizing Taiwan’s response measures.

If Taiwan residents do see something indicative of a potential swine fever infection on the island, they can inform authorities via the following hotline number: 0800-039-131