The main character site for Winnie the Pooh is available elsewhere, but Hong Kong and some other Asia-based web surfers get directed to a 404 message or nothing.
UPDATE: October 11, 2019 – The Pooh is back. A day after reporting on the regional block on Pooh, he appears to accessible to Hong Kong internet users again. Disney has still not responded to email and phone calls for comment.
Internet users in Hong Kong started noticing a strange phenomenum on the afternoon of October 10: Attempts to connect to the main character page for Winnie the Pooh on the Disney site, https://winniethepooh.disney.com, found they couldn’t get through or were directed to a 404 message by the Disney website.
Attempts to reach the site by contacts in the US found they could access the site with no difficulty. Harbour Times, using a mobile phone VPN app to Canada, could access the site.
Contacts in Singapore could not reach the site at all.
“A 404 error means it’s not blocked at the ISP or country level. This is an error on Disney’s side. The fact that it is available in some locations but not others means it is either a technical issue with one of their servers in the region, or Disney internally removed access for these particular markets,” explains Gareth Hayes, technical advisor.
Searching for Winnie the Pooh returned 3 results. One worked, but the two links to the main character site still returned the 404 message.
Recent calls for Cabinet level politicians in Hong Kong for broadly censoring the Internet to stop or slow down protesters have raised alarm in the city. Some are concerned a full blown extension of the Great Firewall of China around Hong Kong could be in the making. Facebook and Instagram are the most used social media platforms here and Google is widely used by businesses and regular consumers alike. All are banned behind the Great Firewall.
However, the concern is also that American companies are self-censoring out of deference to China for fear of losing access to the market. Winnie the Pooh is censured (and censored) on the mainland as it has been seized on as a meme for those who believe Winnie the Pooh resembles Chinese President leader Xi Jinping. The NBA and Activision (via gaming platform Blizzard) have both been embroiled in controversy for being accused of bowing to a form of censorship in deference to Chinese outrage over those making statements of support for Hong Kong protesters.
One explanation from Mr Hayes suggested that the access may only be temporarily blocked while Disney alters the page for people in specific geographic regions.
Harbour Times was trying to reach Disney for comment. Disney could not be reached for comment at the time of posting, but the story will be updated as more information is received.
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He has run The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, founded The Lion Rock Institute and has over 25 years engagement in media, politics, policy and community engagement.
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