Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

'I am gay' protests emerge in China as Weibo bans homosexual content

'I am gay' protests emerge in China as Weibo bans homosexual content

The ban on gay content is considered by many as yet another sign of stigmatization against LGBT people in China, more than a decade after the country removed homosexuality from an official list of mental illness.

Weibo said in a statement Friday it had begun a "clean-up campaign" to remove "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality".

"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 site also reported that a total of 56,243 related violations were erased by the time the notice was published.

"Everyone is unique and sexuality is just one side of us that differs, just like skin color, height and weight", the essay said.

Monday's reversal was met with an outpouring of support.

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The move has gone down well with the Internet users who started holding an online protest with hashtag #I am gay which was used 170,000 times before the Weibo ultimately banned it.

"Through everyone's unrelenting efforts, we finally got a basic right - how rare!" wrote another. "But I know all you can seal is my account".

Rights groups warn that, in a culture that places a high value on filial piety, millions of LGBT people are still forced to live in secret with many marrying heterosexual partners rather than come out as gay.

On Monday it was back online and thanking supporters, saying: "Only by speaking up can we affect change".

The microblogging service, which boasts almost 400 million active users, had vowed Friday to remove all gay-themed cartoons and videos - along with pornographic and violent material - to comply with Chinese laws and regulations. Authorities have issued bans on the portrayal of same-sex relationships on television and online series, and China's official textbooks contain homophobic content.

The affair has highlighted the cultural gap between younger Chinese more open to LGBT issues and "China's older generation - mostly very conservative 40-year-old men - who are now the main force of our society because they control the resources", Xiao Tie, director of the Beijing LGBT Center, told AFP, using a nickname. 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.

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