As China gears up for the Year of the Rabbit, the nation’s Communist authorities have censored a bunny cartoon with political overtones. The Chinese New Year – which falls this year on February 3 – is the country’s biggest holiday. Families come together for several days of feasting and gift-giving. But, this year, a New Year-themed cartoon posted on a popular Chinese website seems to have rankled officials. Censors have deleted the video, in an apparent reaction to its biting political satire.

The three-minute animation begins with rabbit babies being poisoned, a blatant reference to a recent toxic milk scandal that left six children dead…

The rabbits are then forced to attend a political meeting with a group of vicious-looking tigers who promise a “harmonious forest”. That is a thinly-veiled gibe at the Communist party’s favourite, much-mocked slogan, “Harmonious Society”. The tigers then proceed to set the bunnies on fire, bulldoze their homes, and run down rabbit pedestrians.

In the midst of the carnage, the tigers instruct them to remain obedient and “not speak out of turn”. Many in China will see obvious parallels with current events. A fire in a Shanghai block of flats last year left more than 50 dead and caused an outcry over substandard buildings, while forced evictions to make way for new property developments have sparked dissent. Most recently, a hit-and-run accident involving the son of a local police chief – who then tried to evade arrest – focused attention on nepotism and corruption.

The cartoon’s creator “kirjabing” has reportedly said he sees no connections with Chinese society. But the censors obviously disagree. They may have been most disturbed by the animation’s final scenes, in which the rabbits themselves turn savage and attack the tigers. The message for many is clear: pushed too hard, the Chinese people may one day rise up and overthrow their Communist leaders.

There’s a translation of the video here.