Users of the Chinese social app Weibo are seeing a cryptic message after typing the seemingly harmless name of children’s book character Winnie the Pooh: "Content is illegal.” According to USA Today, the beloved bear has been blacklisted from posts on Sina Weibo (China’s wildly popular version of Twitter) while gif images of Pooh Bear have been removed from messaging service WeChat. It turns out that Winnie the Pooh has become a bit of a political meme in China, reports the BBC, where posts that compare the sweet-natured bear to the country’s president have been popping up (and getting taken down) since 2013. It started with a photo of Xi Jinping walking alongside former US president Barack Obama paired next to an image of Pooh and Tigger, thought to resemble Obama’s taller, lean frame.
More viral memes juxtaposing Xi with Pooh followed, including a shot with him and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (depicted as gloomy Eeyore)—while a meme described by Global Risk Insights as the most censored image of 2015 pokes fun at Xi popping his head through his limo’s sun roof next to a Winnie-the-Pooh car push toy. Per the BBC, censors in China are able to virtually wipe out material from the internet and social sharing in the country; the BBC cites the case of dissident Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, whose name simply won’t appear in private WeChat messages. Heightened censorship around the Pooh memes comes before this fall’s Community Party Congress, a meeting held every five years to announce important political appointments. (Read more Winnie the Pooh stories.)