After banning gay content on Friday, Chinese social media giant Sina Weibo has reversed its decision amid swift and overwhelming opposition from the public.
China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, announced on Friday a three-month campaign to rid the platform of posts deemed pornographic, violent or gay.
The move, according to Reuters, was the result of a government crack-down on content, and stricter cyber security laws.
But Weibo was immediately met with robust backlash, and in the space of a day, the platform’s post had attracted 24,000 comments, had been forwarded more than 110,000 times, and whipped up a trending protest hashtag “Iamahomosexual”.
On Monday, after a flood of posts in support for the LGBT community, Weibo backed down to the public pressure and said the clean-up campaign wouldn’t involve homosexual content, nor would there be a ban going forward.
University of Queensland student Ting Ting Liu — an gay-rights activist in China for a decade before moving to Australia to study for a PhD in digital technology and sexuality — told Fairfax Media, the reversal would be hailed as a triumph for the movement.
“It indeed signified an important moment in China, because it shows that the LGBT community and pro-LGBT voice had become strong enough to make Sina to withdraw its ban.”
Major Chinese newspaper backs LGBT in response to Weibo action
She also made special mention of the ruling Communist Party’s official masthead, the People’s Daily, which published an essay on Sunday admonishing the newly-imposed internet regulation that groups homosexuality with sexual abuse and violence under the banner of “abnormal sexual relationship”.
“This articled conveyed the message that homosexuality is not a psychological illness or abnormal behaviour,” Liu said.
This articled conveyed the message that homosexuality is not a psychological illness or abnormal behaviour.
Beijing-based advocacy group PFLAG China had on Sunday applied the blowtorch to the NASDAQ-listed company’s CEO Charles Chao, when it called on Weibo shareholders to punish the “evil” decision by “voting with their feet” and offloading their shares.
Others wrote letters to Chao. The ban was widely seen as a huge step backwards for a country that had only legalised homosexuality 20 years ago, and declassified it as a mental illness in 2001.
“The main concern for me is that, because China is very big, and places outside big cities are quite conservative, there are lots of gay people who only learn about their sexuality online,” lesbian activist Hao Kegui told Reuters.
“I worry the censorship will cause more people to just live in the closet and never come out.”