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China's Sina Weibo reverses ban on 'homosexual' content

16 April 2018

China's Twitter-equivalent Weibo said on Friday it would remove pornographic, violent or gay videos and cartoons in a three-month campaign, singling out a genre of manga animations and comics that often depict raunchy gay male relationships.

On Monday afternoon, Sina Weibo issued the second announcement, declaring "This time, the cleanup of anime and games won't target gay content", according to a translation by What's on Weibo. "Thank you everyone for your discussions and suggestions".

Chinese LGBT advocates hope to promote gay rights by educating society about sexual preferences and pushing back against traditional pressures to marry and have children.

"Weibo's decision on gay content had prompted a tide of protest from outraged users who rallied behind the hashtag "#IamGay", viewed some 240 million times before it was banned by the platform on Saturday. He complied, and his announcement that Voice for China LGBT would be going on hiatus was shared almost 40,000 times.

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

"I feel totally surprised and touched", Hua Zile, the page's founder told CNN on Monday in response to the rule reversal.

"There can be no homosexuality under socialism?" a Weibo user wrote, according to AFP.

"Through everyone's unrelenting efforts, we finally got a basic right - how rare!" wrote another.

Gay Voices, which has since 2009 been one of Weibo's major LGBT accounts with some 230,000 followers, had on Friday declared it would be forced to indefinitely suspend its postings. Weibo claims that it has removed over 56,000 posts and closed over a hundred accounts involving "illegal" content.

Content posted by established LGBT community organizations like PFLAG China, China AIDS Walk and the Beijing LGBT Center remained accessible during the initial days of the purge.

Xiao Tie said the homosexuality ban was a result of over-cautiousness in the absence of specific information from authorities on what kind of content should be censored.

Sina Weibo has around 400 million active monthly users and the backlash caused Nasdaq shares in the company to fall, prompting it to reverse its decision.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997 and there is a growing awareness of LGBT issues in the country, with lively gay scenes springing up in big cities and gay pride parades beginning to emerge, China has no laws protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

China has a mixed track record with gay themes in cultural products. Late last month, Luca Guadagnino's Oscar-winning romance, Call Me By Your Name, was pulled from the lineup of the Beijing Film Festival with no official reason given for the move.

China's Sina Weibo reverses ban on 'homosexual' content