China's Weibo bans 'homosexual' content, sparking outcry

AFP | A man holds a rainbow flag after taking part in the Pride Run in Shanghai

AFP | A man holds a rainbow flag after taking part in the Pride Run in Shanghai

China's Sina Weibo will remove gay and violent content, including pictures, cartoons and text posts, during a three-month clean-up campaign, the microblogging platform said.

But after a two-year delay, Chinese theatres on Friday finally released "Seek McCartney", a film about a secret homosexual romance between Chinese and French lovers that has been hailed as the country's first gay movie.

But the Twitter-like platform backtracked on Monday, stating on its administrators' official account: "This clean-up of games and manga is no longer directed at homosexual content, but is primarily to clean up pornographic and bloody, violent content". No matter where we go we tell others loudly and proudly that we are from China.

The site said its aim was to promote a "clear and harmonious" environment and to comply with stricter cybersecurity laws put in place by President Xi Jinping.

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.

"It's easy to aggravate the public's discrimination against sexual minorities", said Mr Ma, referring to Weibo's announcement.

Chen Du, a gay activist in Guangzhou, said Weibo's campaign would hurt the image of gay people in China and make it more hard for young people to come out.

Despite those changes, much of China's LGBT community has been forced underground. "It can't be changed, and I don't want to change", he wrote. Gay conversion therapy is still used in some public hospitals and private clinics.

"The key question is how to translate this recent wide response/support into a target, with accountability".

"The response shows that we LGBT people in China are slowly realizing our rights", Hua said.

This past week, China's top media regulator ordered Bytedance, a prominent Chinese technology start-up, to shut down an app for sharing jokes and videos, saying it had helped spread vulgar content.

Since consolidating power previous year, Xi has increasingly stressed the Communist Party's absolute control over all aspects of society, resulting in a push for more rigid moral codes and even less room for LGBT visibility and advocacy.

Last year, the People's Daily took pains to say local censors kept the "gay moment" in Disney's Beauty And The Beast despite controversy in other markets.

Weibo censors began deleting posts and blocking searches related to the ban over the weekend. One wrote, "You don't allow me to speak, so you think I will just shut up? Every time you delete, we will start again".

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