Thu 19 Jun 2008, 12:24 GMT
By Lucy Hornby and Alfred Cang
BEIJING (Reuters) - Floods sweeping southern China seem to have fulfilled the final stanza of an Internet curse involving Beijing's Olympic mascots, but censors have been quick to remove postings that might fuel the superstition.
After a devastating earthquake struck Sichuan province last month, Internet users tied four of the five "Fuwa" mascots to the calamities that have struck China in the run-up to the Games, which begin in August. One Fuwa is a panda, the totem of Sichuan.
The others resemble a torch, reminding netizens of the protests against the international Olympic torch rally; a Tibetan antelope tied to widespread demonstrations in Tibetan areas; and a swallow that looks like a kite, linked to a deadly train crash in Shandong province.
The final Fuwa, sporting a fish, was left unexplained in the original superstition as a curse yet to come.
Unexplained, that is, until widespread flooding in southern and central China claimed dozens of lives in June.
"I am in Shenzhen. There is heavy rain for two days and no sign that it will stop... now the curse of the last "fish" has proven correct. What shall we do?" said a post by yellow_hades on Tianya, a popular online forum.
That and similar posts have disappeared quickly this week. China's censors monitor the Internet carefully and remove any posts deemed inflammatory or not in line with government policy.
Major calamities, earthquakes in particular, were viewed in imperial China as a sign that a dynasty had lost the mandate of Heaven.
Although the Communist Party has tried to stamp out "feudal superstition" since it took power in 1949, the Beijing Games will start on the auspicious moment of 8:08 pm, on August 8 2008. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese.