Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

China's Weibo backtracks on 'homosexual content' ban

China's Weibo backtracks on 'homosexual content' ban

"Intellectually speaking, there should be a consensus around respecting other people's sexual orientation", the column said, adding that comparing homosexuality to pornography and violence and regarding it as "abnormal sexual relations" can easily create misgivings in public opinion.

The outcry reflects a fear that growing censorship tends to ban all gay content as "dirty", a setback for efforts to carve out an online space of tolerance for homosexuality in China's traditionally Confucian society, LGBTQI+ advocates say.

In an usual move, Weibo then backtracked on its decision, and said in an announcement (link in Chinese) that its clean-up would no longer target any gay content, without offering more details.

It claimed the new rules were needed in order to "comply with the requirements of laws and regulations [and] fulfil the responsibilities of the company", as well as to build a "happy community" on the platform. Upon the site's announcement of the crackdown on its official administrator's account on Friday, users began commenting on and forwarding the news accompanied by the hashtag "I am gay", according to Reuters.

Sina Weibo has around 400 million active monthly users and the backlash caused Nasdaq shares in the company to fall, prompting it to reverse its decision.

"I am gay and I'm proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me!", said one poster, who used the handle "rou wan xiong xiong xiong xiong" and posted a photo of himself. In the post, the author wondered why China, as the world's second-largest economy, "can't be inclusive of two sexualities".

Much of China's LGBT community has been forced underground.

In it, a woman wrote: 'I am the mother of a gay son. One of the most shared posts is from an activist who uploaded a video from a public event where gay people, wearing rainbow-colored eye patches, asked passers-by to give them a hug.

The Cybersecurity Law doesn't mention LGBT issues, and the Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2001 removed homosexuality and bisexuality from their list of illnesses. These procedures occurred in some public, government-run hospitals and in private clinics, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

This isn't the first time the micro-blogging site has restricted homosexual content. The reference to Weibo's repressive guidelines from Friday prompted a flood of popular support, with users of all backgrounds taking up and retweeting the #iamgay hashtag throughout the weekend.

In an interview with CNN, Hua Zile, founder of a Weibo page focused on gay rights that was told it would be shut down, said he felt "totally surprised and touched" by the new announcement.

"Seven years ago, not that many people were willing to make their voices heard this way", he added.

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