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

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

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.

The three-month clearance campaign was meant to "further make a clean and harmonious community environment" based on "laws and regulations, such as the Cyber Security Law", Weibo had said.

The decision sparked unrest on the site, with users protesting by posting messages with the hashtag #IAmGay - which was trending within just a few hours.

"I am gay and I'm proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me!", said one poster, who used the handle "rou wan xiong xiong xiong xiong" and posted a photo of himself.

"I am the mother of a gay son".

Weibo's initial announcement received hundreds of thousands of comments and shares, with the majority criticising the decision to clamp down on gay content.

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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.

'Thank you everyone for the discussion and your suggestions, ' it said in a statement on its microblog account. But Beijing's official stance towards depictions of homosexuality in the media is repressive, if inconsistently enforced. 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.

Yet exceptions have occasionally been made.

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. Barry Jenkin's gay-themed Oscar Moonlight was similarly allowed to stream past year on iQiyi, a local Netflix-like platform.

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.

Others called on the company to restore content that it had already deleted in the campaign, including a popular Weibo account called the Gay Voice, which published cultural news and podcasts for its more than 230,000 followers. "It's wonderful to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

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