False: This video of figure skating “ice prince” Yuzuru Hanyu with Winnie the Pooh dolls is not censored in China
A video of audience members throwing a large number of Winnie the Pooh dolls and other gifts onto the rink after Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu finished his performance at the ISU Grand Prix Final on Dec. 7, 2019, has circulated on the internet.
A post on Instagram has been viewed more than 49,000 times and has 11,000 likes. On YouTube, the same video posted by Radio Free Asia (RFA) has more than 10,000 playbacks.
Both posts claim the video has been banned in mainland China, where Winnie the Pooh has been used to reference Chinese President Xi Jinping.
RFA writes that the footage “hurts Xi Jinping” and claims relevant videos from the sporting event in Turin, Italy, “have been blocked by the Chinese Communist Party” (archived here).
The claim is false, although the video footage itself is authentic.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist Hanyu, often referred to as Japan’s “ice prince,” is known to carry around a tissue box decorated with Winnie the Pooh; it’s been a tradition for a decade now for his fans to throw a stuffed plush toy of the “silly old bear” onto the rink after his performance.
Videos of Hanyu at the ISU Grand Prix Final can still be viewed online in mainland China on many platforms including Pear Video Sports and Sina Sports. The video caption on Pear Video Sports also mentions “Winnie rain” in Chinese, describing the shower of stuffed bears.
Hanyu, a heartthrob among fans in East Asia, and his fondness of Winnie the Pooh are well known in mainland China and there have been plenty of news reports on this from state-controlled media such as People’s Daily Online and CCTV.
Many other media outlets also posted a video of Hanyu with the dolls.
User-generated videos from the audience are also available on Chinese social media.
It is clear that these videos, as well as the words and phrases referring to Winnie the Pooh (小熊维尼) in video descriptions, are not censored in mainland China.