Chinese Social Media Site Reverses Gay Content Ban After Uproar

A person uses the popular social app Weibo

A person uses the popular social app Weibo

Weibo has fought back by banning the hashtags and taking down some 150,000 related comments, according to German news site Deutsche Welle. "It's incredible to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

The official People's Daily in a Saturday opinion piece published on Weibo (link in Chinese) said that "it is common sense to respect people's sexual orientation" and that "being gay is not a mental disease".

In a statement on Friday, the site said it would spend the next three months removing any content "with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to homosexuality" to "create a sunny and harmonious community environment".

The main targets initially included pornographic, violent and gay-themed cartoons, pictures, videos and articles, as well as content such as "slash, gay, boys love and gay fictional stories", a notice posted by Sina Weibo's administration account said. The growth around the world in support for gay rights has also given the Chinese strength'.

Social media is a key "battlefield" where LGBT advocates take on conservative celebrities who dish out popular dating advice, such as saying that the best couples marry early, produce sons and are straight, according to Xiao Tie, head of the Beijing LGBT Centre.

But it added that "even homosexual people are regular citizens" whose affiliated content was not above being subjected to censorship laws against porn and violence. Gay-themed content has been barred from television in the country for years, and a controversial set of guidelines introduced last year introduced a similar ban in the online streaming space. The new laws, introduced in June past year, lump homosexuality in with sexual abuse and violence as constituting "abnormal sexual relationships".

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"I am the mother of a gay person", a Shanghai woman named Mei wrote in a post on the social network, which was shared 11,000 times.

Weibo's censorship of homosexual content rallied netizens behind #IAmGay rally, which garnered 130 million views. Guangzhou-based PFLAG China challenged Sina shareholders to divest from the NASDAQ-listed company in response and prominent community leaders lobbied company officials.

Hao Kegui, one such writer, came out as a lesbian in an open letter published on social media previous year where she describes how she had felt pressured into marrying a man to please her parents.

But the online backlash shows a growing sign of acceptance towards China's gay community.

"I worry the censorship will cause more people to just live in the closet and never come out".

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