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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 16
China's Weibo drops Gay ban after mass protests
Section One
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China's Weibo drops Gay ban after mass protests

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Within 48 hours of announcing it was removing LGBT content from its website, the Chinese social media giant Sina Weibo reversed itself in the face of mass protests by users.

Weibo is sometimes called 'China's Twitter equivalent,' but with an estimated 390 million users - compared to 200 million for Twitter - it might be more accurate to say that Twitter is the Western equivalent of Weibo.

Weibo said on April 13 that it would remove pornographic, violent, and LGBT-themed videos and cartoons over the next three months, singling out a genre of manga animations and comics that often depict Gay male relationships.

A Weibo administrator said the decision was part of an effort to make the online environment 'clean and harmonious,' saying it had already 'cleared' more than 56,000 violations and closed more than 100 accounts.

The announcement sparked a torrent of online protest. LGBT rights advocates poured online to criticize the decision using hashtags like #IamGay or #IamIllegal. Shares of Sina, Weibo's parent company plummeted on the NASDAQ, losing 7% of their value before the stock exchange closed for the weekend.

Some of the most popular posts against Weibo's ban came from the LGBT rights group The Voice of Gay. One of its posts was reposted tens of thousands of times by April 14, the official Chinese newspaper People's Daily noted.

Well-known LGBT rights activist Pu Chunmei posted pictures of herself with her Gay son. 'My son and I love our country... we are proud to be Chinese!' she wrote. 'But today I saw the announcement by Sina Weibo... as a source of news, it is discriminating and attacking minorities, and this is violence!'

Other criticisms came from regular people. A Weibo user named Shanghai Mei Jie, who said that her son is also Gay - and that they both love China too. She added that despite legal gains in recent years, millions of Chinese LGBT people still suffer from the effects of discrimination and a lack of understanding.

On April 15, People's Daily, which often speaks for the ruling Communist Party of China, published an editorial encouraging 'tolerance towards Gay people' but adding that 'vulgar' content must be removed regardless of sexual orientation.

By April 16, Weibo folded and reversed its decision. After the reversal, the value of Sina's shares jumped up more than 2% in international trading.

Same-sex relations have been legal in China since 1997, but LGBT Chinese still encounter discrimination and social pressure to marry opposite-sex partners and have children.

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