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

Chinese flag with rainbow flag

In a post via the official Weibo account, the Weibo Community Manager said that starting April 13, the site would "fulfill the corporate responsibility" and comply with Chinese Internet Security Laws by closely policing content for a three-month period.

Chinese popular social networking platform Weibo announced that they would remove gay-themed contents from its platform (in Chinese), prompting a storm of online protests.

Sina Weibo, which vowed not to target gay content on Monday, said (link in Chinese) that it "thanks everyone for the discussions and suggestions".

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

By around noon on Saturday, the hashtag #Iamgay had been used by roughly 170,000 people before being reportedly banned, according to Agence France-Presse. He complied, and his announcement that Voice for China LGBT would be going on hiatus was shared almost 40,000 times.

"But the bigger problem is the culture of strict censorship", she added.

In a post that has since been removed by the site, another user defiantly wrote, "Can't stop the rising rainbow" and included a rainbow emoji.

"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".

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Internet users welcomed the change on Monday.

More than 56,000 posts had been removed by the end of Friday, but the South China Morning Post reported that the #ImGay hashtag had also been viewed nearly 300 million times before it was censored.

The platform - which has some 400 million active monthly users - said in its original Friday statement that it was merely implementing China's new cybersecurity law and had already removed some 56,240 items.

"I think Sina (Weibo) overinterpreted the official stance on gay issues", said Wei Liang, and LGBT rights activist who works for the NGOs PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China and LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but activists say the conservative attitudes of some parts of society have prompted occasional government clampdowns. "But today ... I suddenly [find] that in this strong country, Sina Weibo is discriminating against and attacking this sexual minority". Gay-themed content has been barred from television in the country for years, and a controversial set of guidelines introduced last year introduced a similar ban in the online streaming space.

China has a mixed track record with gay themes in cultural products.

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.

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