Weibo, China's Twitter, Backtracks on Censorship of Gay Content After Online Outcry

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As of Friday, the site had removed 56,243 pieces of content, shut down 108 user accounts and removed 62 topics considered to have violated its standards. The company was accused of hosting "improper content" and was forced to close one app and suspend another from app stores for three weeks, to create a "clean audiovisual environment" on the internet. Content posted by established LGBT community organizations like PFLAG China, China AIDS Walk and the Beijing LGBT Center remained accessible during the initial days of the purge. Authorities have issued bans on the portrayal of same-sex relationships on television and online series, and China's official textbooks contain homophobic content.

The official Chinese government response has always been "neither supportive nor against" homosexuality, where it "does not promote" LGBT rights, activist Li Tingting told BBC Chinese.

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. Over the weekend, millions showed their support for China's gay community, using the five-character Chinese-language hashtag phrase "wo shi tongxinglian" ("I am gay").

In the southwestern province of Sichuan, a radio host posted a viral video of LGBT rights activists offering free hugs on a busy street while wearing rainbow-printed eye masks. He wrote,"If I don't say anything today, there probably won't be any chance to do so in the future".

In a statement released on Monday, Sina Weibo said: "This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target homosexual content".

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A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina's Weibo microblogging site in Shanghai May 29, 2012. He complied, and his announcement that Voice for China LGBT would be going on hiatus was shared almost 40,000 times. In the post, the author wondered why China, as the world's second-largest economy, "can't be inclusive of two sexualities".

Weibo's announcement triggered public outrage. "I'm born with it".

Another widely-shared post was of an undated video showing a social experiment where gay volunteers stood in the street inviting passers-by to hug them.

The Cybersecurity Law doesn't mention LGBT issues, and the Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2001 removed homosexuality and bisexuality from their list of illnesses. "So it was meaningful that people online were also bravely speaking out and showing that they were not defeated by negativity". Hundreds of people participated in a pride run event in Nanjing on Saturday (April 14), a day after Weibo's announcement of the ban-a public display of activism that is becoming nearly extinct in China. While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organizer, Lucas Chen, said Weibo's announcement gave it "added significance". "They have already harmed us".

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