'Where's Kang Kang?' Chinese netizens fear for New Year mascot

CCTV's official Spring Festival Gala mascot Kang Kang is shown in an official photograph Image copyright Weibo: CCTV
Image caption Kang Kang the monkey was originally criticised by Chinese netizens for being "ugly"

Chinese netizens are concerned about the fate of a cartoon monkey mascot after he failed to appear on TV to ring in the Year of the Monkey.

Kang Kang first appeared in a short promotional video for Chinese state broadcaster CCTV News in January.

Social media users quickly mocked his unusual looks, calling him "ugly", "tumour-ridden" and "freakish".

But it appears that netizens have had a change of heart after he didn't feature at all in CCTV's New Year extravaganza.

The annual variety show is a highlight of China's New Year entertainment, and is watched by some 700 million viewers.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The monkey is the zodiac animal that takes centre stage in China this Lunar New Year

"Where did you go, Kang Kang?" was the question on everyone's minds, as thousands took to the popular micro-blogging site Weibo over the Lunar New Year to express shock and "dismay".

"Where is Kang Kang? I'm worried," commented a Weibo user from Beijing. "Did people send him away because he was ugly? Now I am starting to feel bad, over a cartoon monkey!"

"Come back Kang Kang, I am sorry that I was so mean to you. You were not so ugly after all," said another user.

Many also began to share memes and personal art pieces dedicated to the missing monkey.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption A crying Kang Kang is comforted by other Chinese monkeys in this illustration uploaded by a Weibo user
Image copyright Weibo
Image copyright Weibo: Bornedo
Image caption Where's Kang Kang? Memes began circulating on China's popular microblogging site Weibo about the missing monkey

Kang Kang was designed by Chinese artist Han Meilin, who also created the 2008 Beijing Olympic mascots.

For now, he still remains on the network's official Facebook page, but users are continuing to speculate about what could have caused the monkey's disappearance.

"I think Kang Kang was subjected to the same treatment that dissidents get, whenever our Communist party becomes unhappy," remarked one Weibo user.

"Stay calm everyone, Kang Kang's tumour cheeks probably did not make it past security check," said another.

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