#IAmGay trends in China as Weibo targets 'homosexual' content in 'clean-up'

A person uses the popular social app Weibo

Weibo bans gay content as part of 'clean-up'

The ban on gay content is considered by many as yet another sign of stigmatization against LGBT people in China, more than a decade after the country removed homosexuality from an official list of mental illness.

China's Sina Weibo has reversed a decision to remove gay content after critics said the company smeared the country's LGBTQI+ community in a bid to meet government censorship directives.

It also thanked the public for "discussions and suggestions".

The official People's Daily newspaper of the ruling Communist Party on Sunday encouraged tolerance towards gay people, but added that "vulgar" content must be removed regardless of sexual orientation. 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. Homosexual relations were included under the heading.

Weibo said the campaign is to ensure that the company is in line with online content regulations released in June a year ago that lump homosexuality in with sexual abuse and violence as constituting "abnormal sexual relationships".

"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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"The Gay Voice", a popular Weibo page with a focus on gay rights and artwork around the world, announced to its more than 230,000 followers Saturday that it would stop updating its page due to "event of force majeure" - a veiled reference to Friday's statement.

The microblogging service, which boasts almost 400 million active users, had vowed Friday to remove all gay-themed cartoons and videos - along with pornographic and violent material - to comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

The move sparked online outcry where Weibo users protest with the hashtag "I am gay", which was used 170,000 times before Weibo ultimately banned it. Weibo did not respond to a request for comment.

"The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn", Xiao said on Sunday, adding that she believes the government is not actively anti-gay, just that it has no clear idea how to deal with the issue.

While homosexuality is not illegal in China and few Chinese have religious objections to it, a traditional, conservative preference for conventional marriage and childbearing creates barriers for LGBT people.

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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