The cartoon character Peppa Pig may be facing a purge on the Chinese web after becoming associated with “subversive” elements.
First introduced to the country in 2015, the character has become a meme as an icon of so-called “shehuiren” subculture.
China’s nationalist paper The Global Times reports that while the word “shehuiren” literally means “society person”, it also refers to a counterculture of unemployed people with little education.
The Global Times reports: “They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the [Communist] Party tries to cultivate.”
Users of China’s popular Douyin video-sharing social media site have found that mentions of the #PeppaPig hashtag had been deleted by administrators.
A list of prohibited content on Douyin, which includes Peppa Pig along with tranvestite men, nudity and firearms, has been circulated by users to the site.
In 2017, Chinese media reported that parents were concerned their children were “addicted” to Peppa Pig and began oinking and jumping into puddles.
The cartoon character has been adopted as a symbol by shehuiren youth, who often adorn their arms with stick-on Peppa Pig tattoos.
This was driven by a viral video with the slogan “Tattoos on Peppa, claps for fella,” according to The Global Times.
“All of my classmates draw Peppa Pig on their arms,” an 18-year-old high school student in Beijing told the news outlet.
“Nobody knows why they do this,” they said. “I do not really care but I do it as well for fun.”
Peppa Pig material began to be deleted on Sunday and Monday, 30 April.
Other recent social media “clean-up” campaigns have drawn criticism from Chinese youth who responded to a homophobic crackdown by micro-blogging site Weibo with the hashtag #IAmGay.
In February of this year, China also launched a crackdown of another British cartoon character after social media users began comparing President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.