A report on a nine-year-old Henan boy's suggestion that President Xi Jinping lose some weight was pulled from major news websites yesterday after going viral on the mainland.
The suggestion was part of a letter about the space industry that Niu Ziru, a grade four pupil at the Best International School in Zhengzhou, wrote - but never sent - to Xi for a school writing project, the Zhengzhou Evening News reported.
Addressing Xi as "Xi Dada", a close term for an older man, Ziru said China should plan a mission to Mars.
"The United States and Russia - even the European Union and India - are all planning to land on Mars. Let's hurry up," Ziru wrote.
He then changed the topic to what he thought was a "lighter subject" by saying "Xi Dada, you could lose some weight. [You] don't have to look as slim as [US President Barack] Obama. It's all right to look like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."
The letter was not sent but Ziru's father found it amusing and shared a photograph of it on WeChat. The letter was then forwarded by internet users and the Zhengzhou Evening News picked it up and ran a story on it.
There is no word on what Xi thought of the suggestion but one thing is for sure - the propaganda machine did not find it amusing.
The newspaper's report, which was carried widely by mainland media, was later withdrawn from the newspaper's digital editions and various other major outlets, including Xinhua.
The editorial department of the newspaper could not be reached for comment last night.
Xi has been working to create the image of a people-friendly president, with media coverage of him eating at steamed bun restaurants and shaking hands with the public on Beijing's streets.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Censors snip weight-loss hint for Xi