Disney’s new hybrid live-action/cg animation feature Christopher Robin opens in the United States this weekend, but don’t expect to see it in China anytime soon. Government authorities in that country have banned the film, according to an exclusive report in The Hollywood Reporter.
Sources told THR that the film concerns Communist authorities because Pooh is often used as a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party, and more specifically, to the country’s leader Xi Jinping.
The problem started in 2013, when Chinese people on social media began comparing Xinping to Winnie the Pooh:
The most popular photo on Weibo in the past 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/iaTE3yVcM5
— XQ (@MissXQ) June 11, 2013
The idea of Xinping as a plump bear soon started spreading, and though the country’s internet censors quickly deleted all of the images, new images of Xinping as Pooh started popping up.
— The Liddell Group (@TheLiddellGroup) July 17, 2017
Last year, Chinese authorities started even more aggressive censorship of Pooh, banning not only images of the character, but also the use of the name “Winnie the Pooh” in social media comments. Attempts to use the word would result in a message window that popped up on people’s devices warning that such comments were against Chinese law. The government eventually backed down on its ban on the name Pooh, though images are still restricted online. (Pooh merchandise is sold in the country, as long as it doesn’t compare the bear to Xinping.)
The matter remains largely unresolved, and Pooh has emerged as a symbol of resistance against the Chinese government even among the country’s political prisoners:
— Helen L.H. Wong (@helenwonglh) July 18, 2017
A BBC reporter explained why the comparison of Pooh to Jinping is seen as so worrisome in China.
It is not only that China’s censors will not tolerate ridicule of the country’s leader, they do not want this beloved children’s character becoming a kind of online euphemism for the Communist Party’s general secretary.
In other countries such comparisons might be thought of as harmless enough and some might even think that having Winnie as your mascot could even be quite endearing: not in China.
Here the president is Mr Grey. He doesn’t do silly things; he has no quirky elements; he makes no mistakes and that is why he is above the population and unable to be questioned.
Though Disney won’t be able to spread Pooh in China, Christopher Robin is scheduled to roll out throughout the rest of world over the next few months.