Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Rare win for China's LGBT community after censorship U-turn by Sina Weibo

Flashmob featuring local drag kings and queens Cocosanti Dorian T. Fisk Fantasia Valentina Erica Shark Nina ‘the Duchess’ Flowers and allies Shanghai LGBT community fumes as Weibo, China's version of Twitter, decides to ban gay content
Nicole Thomas | 16 April, 2018, 22:19

Some also took to Twitter, which is banned in China.

The site attempted to crack down on the protest by deleting posts and censoring words such as "gay". On Monday, Sina Weibo said it would reverse the ban. Hundreds of people participated in a pride run event in Nanjing on Saturday (April 14), a day after Weibo's announcement of the ban-a public display of activism that is becoming nearly extinct in China.

At the time of Friday's announcement, the site had already removed more than 56,000 pieces of content, closed 108 accounts and taken down 62 topics, the online statement said.

"I support Sina in clearing out pornographic content, but it definitely must not do so as before and target homosexuality - that kind of discrimination is wrong", wrote one user.

Many users included hashtags such as #Iamgay or #Iamgaynotapervert in their posts.

Some tried testing the ban and uploaded pictures of themselves with partners or gay friends or relatives.

"My son and I love our country. we are proud to be Chinese!" "But today ... I suddenly [find] that in this strong country, Sina Weibo is discriminating against and attacking this sexual minority".

Another widely-shared post was of an undated video showing a social experiment where gay volunteers stood in the street inviting passers-by to hug them.

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China's LGBT community and their allies responded immediately to the announcement with hashtag campaigns, with the declaration #我是同性恋# (I am gay) reaching almost 300 million views before it was blocked on Saturday.

The initial post announced a three-month "clean-up" targeting pornographic, "bloody violence" and homosexual content for deletion.

Netizens cheered the reversal. "It is unbelievable that China progresses economically and militarily but returns to the feudal era in terms of ideas", one outraged Weibo commenter said.

What is China's stance on LGBT rights?

Much of the homosexual content on Weibo is fuelled not by LGBT activists, who are quite low-profile, but by the large online community of "funu" ("rotten girls") - heterosexual women who are avid fans of male gay romances and share comics or stories, frequently erotic.

But in recent months, some began to fear that this presence was starting to be curtailed by conservative forces. Such regulations have targeted content considered "immoral", including pornography and erotic fiction, but the dragnet has also caught things like hip hop and the #MeToo movement.

The official Chinese government response has always been "neither supportive nor against" homosexuality, where it "does not promote" LGBT rights, activist Li Tingting told BBC Chinese.

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