Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

China: Outcry forces Sina Weibo to reverse anti-gay 'clean-up' policy

China: Outcry forces Sina Weibo to reverse anti-gay 'clean-up' policy

China's answer to Twitter, Sina Weibo, today (April 16) withdrew its short-lived ban on homosexual content, after people came out as gay to protest the ban.

Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, had said on Friday that it meant to keep the site clear of postings containing homosexual content.

"The main concern for me is that, because China is very big, and places outside big cities are quite conservative, there are lots of gay people who only learn about their sexuality online", Hao said. "Thank you everyone for your discussions and suggestions".

Many quoted China's constitution and laws about the protection of minorities.

Regulators have been ratcheting up control over Chinese microblogs in recent months, ordering operators like Weibo to set up a mechanism to remove false information after criticizing it for allowing prohibited material to spread.

In 2017, the Chinese authorities issued a cybersecurity law that banned "displays of homosexuality" from audio-visual content on China's video platforms, along with other perverse content like incest and sexual violence.

The post drew more than 24,000 comments, was forwarded more than 110,000 times, and prompted users to protest against the decision, using the hashtag "I am gay".

Gay conversion therapy is still fairly common with many stories of people being forced into facilities for "treatments" aimed at changing an individual's sexual orientation. In addition to gay people, the country's liberals who were enraged by the crackdown also made their voices heard.

Hua said a Weibo manager told him to stop posting while the "cleanup" was to take place. The posting was viewed almost 6.5 million times.

"They targeted the entire LGBT community in that notice", he added.

"Like China, which has developed so quickly in such a short time, sex education in the country is a work in progress", he said. 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". While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organizer, Lucas Chen, said Weibo's announcement gave it "added significance". "So it was meaningful that people online were also bravely speaking out and showing that they were not defeated by negativity".

But many users were incensed, saying the campaign was another sign of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in China, more than two decades after the country decriminalised homosexuality.

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