'I am gay' protests emerge in China as Weibo bans homosexual content

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The three-month clearance campaign was meant to "further make a clean and harmonious community environment" based on "laws and regulations, such as the Cyber Security Law", Weibo had said. The move represents a rare, possibly unprecedented, win for China's nascent LGBT rights movement.

"I support Sina in clearing out pornographic content, but it definitely must not do so as before and target homosexuality - that kind of discrimination is wrong", wrote one user.

The post drew more than 24,000 comments, was forwarded more than 110,000 times, and prompted users to protest against the decision, using the hashtag "I am gay".

Caixin reported Monday that the service said it will not target homosexual topics during its "content clearance" bid. The widely discussed "gay moment" in Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast was allowed to run uncensored in Chinese cinemas a year ago, and state newspaper The People's Daily even celebrated the decision on Weibo, posting: "Controversial gay moment kept in Disney's #BeautyAndTheBeast. requires no guidance for minor audience".

In the past few days, a blog post (link in Chinese) with the title translated as "HelloSina scum, I am gay" went viral on social-networking app WeChat, even though the original post and its reposts have been deleted numerous times.

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In a post that has since been removed by the site, another user defiantly wrote, "Can't stop the rising rainbow" and included a rainbow emoji. More than 170,000 people used the "I am gay" hashtag before they were shut down mid-day on Saturday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. The same hashtag was also viewed almost 300 million times, Reuters reported.

Many posted selfies with the words "I am gay not a pevert", followed by a chain of rainbow emoticons. "What can we do?"

Despite China decriminalising homosexuality in 1997, and homosexuality being removed from the government's list of Mental Disorders in 2001, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding same-sex relationships in the country.

"The response shows that we LGBT people in China are slowly realizing our rights", Hua said.

The ruling Communist Party aims to purge the internet of any content deviating from its "core values of socialism", with the micro-blogging site moving to block such "illegal content" over the course of three months. A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content. 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. "It's incredible to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

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