Filipino protesters to carry images of Winnie the Pooh during Xi Jinping’s visit

November 19, 2018 - 1:13 PM
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APEC Summit 2018 in Port Moresby
President of China Xi Jinping arrives for the APEC CEO Summit 2018 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 17 November 2018. (Reuters/Fazry Ismail)

In anticipation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in the Philippines on Tuesday for a state visit, some social media users urged the public to bring out pictures, effigies and costumes of Winnie the Pooh as a sign of protest.

President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2016 invited Xi to the Philippines when he went to China for a state visit.

The chief executive also extended an invitation for the Chinese president to visit his Davao residence as well.

Xi is hoping to deepen the two countries’ “political mutual trust” with each other in terms of bilateral and international issues, as well as enhance their cooperation in business, trade, infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism, among others.

Some Filipinos, however, were not too pleased with the announcement in light of the ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries.

READ: Duterte: China should temper its behavior in disputed waters

Instead, they urged the public to showcase any Winnie the Pooh-related pictures, costumes and effigies.

Xi Jinping as Pooh

Winnie the Pooh is a fictional cartoon character created by A.A. Milne that was popularized when Disney adapted it to television series and animated films.

Last year, the Chinese government banned all mentions of the cartoon character on their social media platforms after users began circulating pictures of Xi walking with former United States President Barack Obama in 2013.

The pictures were juxtaposed against that of Pooh and Tiger, his best friend.

Social media users continued to juxtapose Xi’s picture when he attended an international conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014.

Xi and Abe were compared to Pooh and Eeyore, respectively.

The year after, a picture of Xi standing in a parade car was juxtaposed with Pooh in a toy car.

The Chinese president participated in a military parade that celebrated their country’s victory against Japan in the Second World War.

The image became China’s most banned picture on the internet in 2015 but prior to its censorship, users have shared it more than 65,000 times on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.

The Chinese government also banned the showing of “Christopher Robin” in the country. It is a movie that features Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, together with a grown-up Christopher Robin.

As a result of the censorship imposed by the Chinese government, the Chinese characters of Winnie the Pooh is banned in Weibo. An attempt to type his name in a comments thread would reportedly produce a message that reads “content is illegal.”

WeChat, another popular Chinese social media platform, also took down every animated GIFs and illustration they have in their media gallery that represents Pooh.

China’s internet censorship 

A report by The Guardian published in June 2018 notes that ever since Xi took office, the state of internet censorship in China has been the “most sophisticated” and “largest” one yet.

An excerpt of it reads:

“The advent of Xi Jinping in 2012 brought a new determination to move beyond deleting posts and passing regulations. Beijing wanted to ensure that internet content more actively served the interests of the Communist party.”

“Within the virtual world, as in the real world, the party moved to silence dissenting voices, to mobilise party members in support of its values, and to prevent foreign ideas from seeping into Chinese political and social life.”

Even before Xi became president, however, China already regulated the use of the internet since 1997 as a communist state. Any information, picture, or video that sends anti-government sentiments would be taken down and its source blocked.

The initiative was only formalized when the government created “The Golden Shield Project” in 2000 with a repurposed aim to restrict the access of their citizens in foreign websites (particularly the Western ones), block foreign search engines and social media platforms, among others.

Apps of the same blocked platforms cannot be downloaded on computers and smartphones as well.

Some of the banned websites and apps are Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and Western media outlets such as The New York Times and The Guardian.

The project is enforced and supervised by China’s Ministry of Public Security.