Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging platform, has reversed its ban of gay content. The decision announced on Monday is a rare instance where a Chinese institution bows to public pressure.
The company’s proposed three-month operation to clean up its site, user groups and user-generated comments will “no longer apply to homosexual content,” Sina said on its site. “We thank you for all your discussions and suggestions.”
At the end of last week, Sina said that it had cleaned up over 56,000 unregulated posts, closed 108 accounts and removed other discussion topics. It explained that the action was being taken to “further make a clean and harmonious community environment” and is being done “according to laws and regulations such as the Cyber security Law.”
Sina said that its targets included pornographic, violent or gay-themed cartoons, pictures, videos and articles, as well as such content as “slash, gay, boys love and gay fictional stories.” The notification itself was reposted more than 20,000 times and sparked a backlash among users. Many used revived the “I am gay” web page and effectively turned it into a hashtag of protest.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997. It ceased to be categorized as a mental illness from 2001. However, whether homosexual content is illegal or not in China is currently a subject of debate.
The Beijing International Film Festival last week removed gay-themed “Call Me By Your Name,” from its lineup. The prize-winning film had previously been announced as part of its selection.
In June last year, China Netcasting Service Association, a non-government organization administered by SAPPRFT banned service providers from releasing programs that “present abnormal sexual relations or behavior,” such as incest, homosexual relations, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
In a rare move, filmmaker Fan Chunlin has been granted permission to challenge the ruling in court. Fan has questioned why China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT),categorizes homosexual relations as “abnormal.”
There is an expanding crackdown in China against decadent and western ideas, and an ever greater promotion of “core Socialist values.” One Beijing company that employed some 30 staff organizing events, clubs and meetings for the LGBT community, was recently closed down following pressure from authorities.