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Japan's Disney store sells merchandise of Winnie the Pooh supporting China's protests

Japan's Disney store is selling merchandise featuring Winnie the Pooh holding up a sheet of blank white paper, a symbol of the anti-government protests in China.
Screenshot of Japan's Disney Store website
Japan's Disney store is selling merchandise featuring Winnie the Pooh holding up a sheet of blank white paper, a symbol of the anti-government protests in China.

Winnie the Pooh is joining the protests against China's "zero-COVID" policy.

Japan's Disney store is now selling merchandise online that features Winnie the Pooh holding up a blank white sheet of paper — a symbol of China's lockdown protests.

The products are created through Disney's MADE program, which the product descriptions call "D-MADE" and allows people to customize their own Disney merchandise. The collection includes hoodies, shirts, tote bags and mugs.

The merchandise is not being sold on the U.S. Disney site under personalized products featuring Pooh.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Protesters raise blank papers as they march in protest in Beijing on Nov. 27. The white paper symbolizes a silent protest against the Chinese government's heavy-handed enforcement of free speech.
Ng Han Guan / AP
/
AP
Protesters raise blank papers as they march in protest in Beijing on Nov. 27. The white paper symbolizes a silent protest against the Chinese government's heavy-handed enforcement of free speech.

Demonstrations in China erupted on Nov. 25 after a fire in an apartment building killed 10 people in the Xinjiang region amid stringent lockdowns that kept people stuck in their homes for more than three months. Since then, demonstrators in several of the nation's cities have taken to the streets to demand the end of COVID-19 restrictions and the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Some people have been holding up blank papers during the protests to represent a call for free speech and a common message of resistance that needs no words, because "everyone knows."

In Japan's Disney store, Winnie the Pooh appears to be doing just the same, bearing a more serious face than his typical smiling one. Hundreds of people in Japan have protested in solidarity with the anti-lockdown demonstrations in China.

This activist Pooh is an adaptation of a 2013 viral meme of Pooh reading a blank white paper while squinting his eyes and appearing confused.

People have been likening Xi to the chubby bear for years, making the beloved character a highly politicized figure in China. In 2013, people compared a photo of Xi and former President Barack Obama walking alongside each other to an image of Pooh and Tigger. China censored the Chinese name for Winnie the Pooh and animated gifs of the bear on social media platforms in 2017, giving no official explanation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Ahn
Ashley Ahn is an intern for the Digital News and Graphics desks. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN's health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers for CNN's Atlanta News Bureau. She also wrote pieces for USA TODAY and served as the Executive Editor of her college's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Ahn is pursuing a master's degree in computer science at Columbia University.