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Mainland censors quash inflatable toad reports

BEIJING -- Chinese reports about a giant inflatable toad have been deleted from the Internet after social media users compared the puffed-up animal to a former Communist Party chief.

The installation of a giant inflatable duck in Hong Kong's harbor last year sparked a national craze for oversized blow-up wildlife, with several Chinese cities launching their own imitations.

The latest, a 22-meter-high (72-feet) toad, appeared in a Beijing park last weekend, but met with mockery from social media users who compared its appearance to that of former President Jiang Zemin.

The website of China's official Xinhua News Agency and popular web portal Sina had deleted their reports on the animal — seen as a symbol of good fortune in traditional Chinese culture — by Wednesday.

A message on Xinhua's website read: “Sorry, the report you are attempting to access has been deleted or has expired,” although reports on some lower-profile news sites were still accessible.

China's ruling Communist Party tightly controls the Internet, blocking foreign sites such as Facebook while ordering local outlets to remove articles on political topics it deems sensitive, such as criticism of senior leaders.

Last year China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo blocked searches for “big yellow duck” after users posted an image of the iconic “Tank Man” photograph showing a Tiananmen Square protester but with military vehicles replaced by giant ducks.

Jiang — who stepped down as president in 2002 but still wields influence within the party — has been mockingly nicknamed “toad” by some Internet users for his jowly features.

Rumors have been swirling around Jiang amid reports that current party chief and President Xi Jinping is targeting some of the former president's allies in an anti-corruption drive.

A spokesman for Yuyuantan park in Beijing said there were no immediate plans to remove the toad.

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This file photo taken on Monday, July 21 shows people riding in a boat before a 22-meter-tall inflatable “big golden toad” created by Chinese artist Guo Yongyao from Ningbo, displayed at Yuyuantan park in Beijing. (AFP)

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