The screening of British horror film "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey" has been canceled in Hong Kong days before the scheduled release date, according to local media, fueling speculation the move is related to the character's association with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Moviematic, which had organized a pre-release screening of the film, announced the cancellation on Tuesday via social media, citing "technical reasons." The sudden move prompted concerns over heightened censorship in the former British colony amid tightened control by Beijing.
The movie had originally been scheduled to open at 32 cinemas across Hong Kong and Macao on Thursday.
The film's distributor VII Pillars Entertainment expressed regret over the decision on social media, saying it was "incredibly sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience," but did not elaborate on the reasons behind the move.
In 2021, the Hong Kong government implemented new guidelines requiring censors to ban any films that may breach the Beijing-imposed national security law.
Hong Kong's culture secretary Kevin Yeung told reporters Wednesday the film had passed the official screening process and that it had been the distributor's decision to cancel the screening.
Images of the popular bear character have regularly been censored in China since a photo comparison of Xi and former U.S. President Barack Obama with Winnie the Pooh and his friend Tigger went viral in 2013.