Anger over crackdown on LGBTQ WeChat accounts in China | China

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Anger over crackdown on LGBTQ WeChat accounts in China | China

The online crackdown on social media accounts linked to the gay movement on campuses in China has sparked outrage, solidarity and a backlash against the authorities’ treatment of sexual and gender minorities in the country.

Dozens of WeChat accounts run by LGBTQ university students were banned and then deleted on Tuesday, without warning. Some of the accounts — a mix of registered student clubs and informal grassroots groups — have served for years as safe spaces for China’s gay youth, with tens of thousands of followers.

Attempts to access WeChat accounts were met with an error message saying that the content had been blocked and the account had been disabled “after receiving relevant complaints”. Other messages said the accounts “violated regulations for managing accounts providing public information service on the Chinese Internet,” Reuters reported.

The shutdowns have heightened concern about China’s worsening intolerance and activism of sexual and gender minorities, which has also led to Targeted women’s groups And the Individuals who sought to respond against discrimination.

Social media giants in China Routinely censor content considered as politically or culturally sensitive, but it is often not clear whether these decisions were made From government directives or made in-house, depending on what the government thinks is expected.

On Wednesday, .’s Weibo account appeared Zhou Xiaoxuan, better known as XianziHe was suspended for a year for violating the Weibo Complaint Regulations. Xianzi is a key figure in Chinese #MeToo movement, after she accused her former employer, a popular TV presenter, of sexual harassment.

Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, has not explained the reasons behind the mass removals, and declined to comment when contacted by The Guardian.

Darius LongarinoAnd the This week’s development is not surprising in the current climate, said a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, which researches LGBTQ rights in China.

You have allowed a degree of official indifference [China’s] “Inviting gays to thrive in a gray space, but that space is shrinking now,” Longarino said.

Homosexuality in China was illegal until 1997, and was classified as a mental health disorder until 2001. During public acceptance – and commercial capitalization – From the LGBTQ community in China, the authorities did not follow step by step. Slow pressure from the authorities on China’s gay community has been going on for several years – but until recently, it was often met with a backslide by activists.

in 2015A Chinese filmmaker has sued state officials to try to find out how and why his gay-themed documentary was removed from local streaming sites. He won the case in the end. in 2018, After the protest, social media platform Weibo reversed a controversial posting ban that combined homosexual content with pornographic and violent material.

But activists said the area of ​​activity has become significantly smaller in the past few years. In 2019, another social media platform Weibo reportedly removed all comments and posts containing the hashtag #les, in reference to lesbians. Weibo users have also reported that they can no longer use the rainbow flag in their walks.

Last year, Shanghai Pride, the country’s only major annual celebration for sexual minorities, suddenly announced its closure. In an open letter, event organizers said the move meant “the end of the rainbow” for them. They wrote, “It has been an amazing 12-year journey, and we are proud and proud to have traveled on this journey to raise awareness and promote diversity for the LGBTQ community.”

Amid rising nationalism on the Internet, some corners of the Internet in China have also sought to associate LGBT people and rights groups, without evidence, with foreign interference or “anti-China” forces.

Hu Xijin, editor of the state-owned national newspaper The Global Times, said in WeChat article that the state “does not place any restrictions on the lifestyle choices of sexual minorities,” but that homosexuals “must be more patient” and “not try to become a high-profile ideology.”

Longarino said it’s hard to know if the recent crackdown represents a complete shutdown of such discussions on the Chinese internet. “My sense is that the short term will continue to be a tricky sail, but the gains of the gay movement over the past two decades, in terms of building community and expanding public support, along with its impressive resilience, can be seen through.”

In New York, a spontaneous art exhibition to commemorate deleted WeChat accounts is scheduled for later this week. Event organizers called on participants to bring their poems, graffiti and rainbow flags to highlight censorship.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department was aware of the shutdowns and was concerned that China had imposed restrictions on the accounts of groups that were “only expressing their opinions, exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of expression”.

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