World Media

China's Weibo Reverses Ban On Gay-Themed Content

China's Weibo Reverses Ban On Gay-Themed Content

"The clean-up campaign will not target homosexual content, as it is meant to focus on cleaning up pornographic and violent content", the site said in an official post on Monday. Weibo claims that it has removed over 56,000 posts and closed over a hundred accounts involving "illegal" content. The event had in fact been planned and approved by local authorities before the Weibo ban was announced, but it took on greater meaning as a result of the crackdown, organizers said in a Weibo post (link in Chinese)."This is the kind of day worth remembering for a lifetime", they wrote, adding that Weibo shut down the event's live stream.

"They targeted the entire LGBT community in that notice", Xiaogang Wei, a leading LGBT rights advocate in China, told CNN.

Following Weibo's initial announcement Friday, more than a million users have viewed hashtags in support of LGBT rights, with many sharing their own experiences as an LGBT person or a parent of one.

The announcement provoked a flood of reaction from stunned or outraged Chinese Internet users, with protesters rallying behind the hashtag "I am gay". "They have already harmed us".

Many activists had harsh words for Sina Weibo, saying that its attempts to limit free speech had gone too far and that gay people were being punished because their culture was considered out of the mainstream.

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In a post that has since been removed by the site, another user defiantly wrote, "Can't stop the rising rainbow" and included a rainbow emoji. The Chinese characters meaning gay occupies the second spot on a current list of Weibo's Top 10 blocked terms, according to freeweibo.com, a website that tracks censorship. "What can we do?"

While homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997 and there is a growing awareness of LGBT issues in the country, with lively gay scenes springing up in big cities and gay pride parades beginning to emerge, China has no laws protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, a ban on depictions of gay people in online video and audio content was unveiled a year ago.

China has a notorious history with censorship - generally as it involves sex, violence and the portrayal of China itself - but its record on homosexual-themed content and LGBT matters has been mixed. A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content.

The People's Daily, the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, also appeared to criticize Weibo in a Sunday editorial. In addition to gay people, the country's liberals who were enraged by the crackdown also made their voices heard. "It's incredible to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".


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