China's Weibo Reverses Gay Content Ban in Surprise Win for LGBT Community

Sergio Conner
April 16, 2018

China has banned homosexual content on social media platform Weibo and users are not taking it lying down.

Sina Weibo, which vowed not to target gay content on Monday, said (link in Chinese) that it "thanks everyone for the discussions and suggestions".

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.

In a statement released on Monday, Sina Weibo said: "This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target homosexual content".

According to Sky, the wave of censorship was part of a three-month plan to "create a bright and harmonious community environment" in accordance with a draconian cybersecurity law passed previous year, with Weibo officials saying they would also delete violent or pornographic content.

Outraged Weibo users fought back by posting pictures with their partners, rainbow emojis and statuses including the hashtags #iamgay and #iamgaynotapervert. The widely discussed "gay moment" in Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast was allowed to run uncensored in Chinese cinemas previous year, and state newspaper The People's Daily even celebrated the decision on Weibo, posting: "Controversial gay moment kept in Disney's #BeautyAndTheBeast. requires no guidance for minor audience".

In one post that was liked some 60,000 times, a woman in Shanghai wrote: "I am the mother of a gay son". While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organizer, Lucas Chen, said Weibo's announcement gave it "added significance".

A large number of the posts were subsequently removed.

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One post in protest of the ban received more than 55,000 likes.

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

The move sparked online outcry where Weibo users protest with the hashtag "I am gay", which was used 170,000 times before Weibo ultimately banned it.

The tag "I am gay" was viewed almost 300 million times on Weibo before being censored on Saturday.

Users of Weibo reacted angrily to the news, voicing strong objections to the content ban.

Many posted selfies with the words "I am gay not a pevert", followed by a chain of rainbow emoticons. These procedures occurred in some public, government-run hospitals and in private clinics, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

The ruling Communist Party aims to purge the internet of any content deviating from its "core values of socialism", with the micro-blogging site moving to block such "illegal content" over the course of three months.

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.

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