'I am gay' protest rocks China's Weibo after 'clean-up campaign'

LGBT community fumes as Weibo, China's version of Twitter, decides to ban gay content

Chinese microblogging platform Weibo to remove content related to homosexuality and violence

Weibo, often referred to as "China's Twitter", issued new guidelines last Friday saying that it would begin deleting all gay-themed cartoons and videos, along with violent and pornographic material.

China's LGBT community and their allies responded immediately to the announcement with hashtag campaigns, with the declaration #我是同性恋# (I am gay) reaching almost 300 million views before it was blocked on Saturday.

The LGBT community in China also pushed back last July when Weibo censored videos of same-sex couples.

By Saturday, Weibo had removed 56,243 pieces of content, closed 108 user accounts and taken down 62 topics.

Chinese authorities have embarked on a campaign in recent years aimed at purging internet content that it deems inappropriate.

Following Weibo's initial announcement Friday, more than a million users have viewed hashtags in support of LGBT rights, with many sharing their own experiences as an LGBT person or a parent of one.

Among them was LGBT rights activist Pu Chunmei, whose impassioned post accompanied with pictures of her with her gay son quickly went viral.

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

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"My son and I love our country. we are proud to be Chinese!"

Following Sina Weibo's announcement, a popular Weibo page called "The Gay Voice" told its 230,000 followers it would cease operations, which in turn sparked a backlash to the new policy.

As of early Monday morning many such posts were still online, as censors appeared to struggle to keep up with the deluge.

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".

The latest move to "clean-up" what is posted online in Weibo comes at a time when Facebook - the world's largest social media company - has been facing flak for leaking user data to private firms.

Netizens cheered the reversal.

What is China's stance on LGBT rights?

Conservative attitudes still prevail in many parts of the country, but that has not stopped the LGBT community and activists from having a strong and vibrant presence. Such regulations have targeted content considered "immoral", including pornography and erotic fiction, but the dragnet has also caught things like hip hop and the #MeToo movement. "I was surprised that the rule turned out to be very abrupt, and many from the LGBT circle have immediately taken action to work on solutions", said Martin Yang, director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) China AIDS Walk.

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