WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images(BEIJING) — China’s newest celebrity is a large inflatable toad floating in the middle of a Beijing pond, but mentions of the giant frog have disappeared from some of China’s news and social media sites after some netizens pointed out similarities to Jiang Zemin, China’s retired leader.
The 72-foot-tall inflatable golden toad has been the center of attention at Beijing’s Yuyuantan Park this summer. Children clustered around the lake, waiting to take photos with it. A toad is a good luck sign in China, with tales of them being able to spit out gold coins. “Wealth-beckoning toad” statues have long been popular in Chinese homes and businesses.
But reports of the yellow toad on China’s official Xinhua News Agency and Sina, a popular Internet portal, have disappeared.
The reports disappeared after Chinese internet users compared the toad to Jiang, former Chinese president and ex-head of the ruling Communist Party. One netizen even photoshopped the toad wearing a large pair of square, dark-rimmed eyeglasses, something the former president is often seen wearing.
This is not the first time references to toads were made about the former party leader. During Jiang’s 13-year-long rule in China from 1989 to 2002, Chinese people have sometimes referred to him privately as “hama jing,” a toad that has assumed the form of a human.
No official reasons were given for the disappearances. A Xinhua official who works in the editing office and declined to identify himself told ABC News that the Xinhua agency handles hundreds of articles a day, and he knows nothing about why the reports disappeared. Another administrative official, who also declined to identify herself, declined to answer questions regarding the reports on the toad altogether. Xinhua’s website simply said, “Sorry, this news has been deleted.”
Other sites have not taken down posts making the comparison, including Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
It seems that the over-sized amphibian has a serious message. At the entrance of the park, an information board explains that the inflatable frog is called “fuxing chan,” or “revival-bringing toad,” echoing Chinese president Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” of “national revival.”
Others, however, have mocked the frog. Poet Qingshan from Tianjin wrote a poem that described the inflatable toad as “empty,” “useless,” and “dependent on a gust of gas.”
Mega-sized inflatable animals became a nationwide fad in China after a giant rubber duck attracted huge crowds when exhibited in Hong Kong last year. Created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, the duck inspired imitations in several Chinese cities. Wuhan, Shenzhen, Foshan, Tianjin, and Dongguan have all “quacked up” their own versions of the duck.
Hofman’s yellow duck has also been subjected to online censorship in China. Last year, a photoshopped version of the famous Tiananmen Square “tank man” — the protester who famously confronted a tank — appeared online, with the man confronting a row of yellow ducks rather than Chinese Army tanks. Subsequently, the term “Big Yellow Duck” was blocked during last year’s anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
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