Chinese LGBT+ communities mourn as dozens of social media accounts shut down overnight
Header image: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash.
Dozens of LGBT+ student organisation WeChat public accounts in China are permanently banned overnight, including ones of Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Fudan University.
No explanation has been given as of yet by China’s most popular communication platform except a line that says the account ‘violates’ its Community Guidelines. All previous content has been blocked.
Two Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) advocating for equality of sexual orientation are also closed down, according to Free Chinese Feminists, an online community documenting China’s feminist movement.
There is speculation that this is a ‘coordinated decision’ with some saying universities across the country started gathering registers of LGBT+ student groups a month ago. The process is believed to be led by branches of the Communist Youth League of each institution, which oversees student societies.
An unverified document dated 19 May shows Hohai University was ordered by the Ministry of Education Jiangsu Province to conduct a “comprehensive inspection” of LGBT+ student organisations on its campus.
A statement published by Zhihe Society, a campus society tailored to homosexuality and feminism at Fudan University, says, “the public account is closed down on 6 July 2021 in compliance with relevant regulations.”
“It is impossible for our account to be recovered in the foreseeable future. All external communication will rely mainly on Weibo and WeChat groups.”
“The Society has been dedicated to creating an inclusive and equal environment on our campus since its launch in 2005…our advocacy will not stop, quite contrary, we would like to take this as a fresh start.”
Anger pours in as more WeChat accounts of LGBT+ university advocate groups are being added to the blacklist. Some also fear that accounts on Weibo could be the next target.
“The patriarchy is so deep-rooted in this country and so is the backlash towards homosexuality,” one user commented on Weibo, one of the largest social media platforms in China.
Speaking on the 44th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Chinese government said it opposes “all forms of violence and discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.
However, many argued that the crackdown contradicts the promise.
“While more countries have legalised same-sex marriage, in China, from second-child policy to a divorce ‘cooling-off law to the third-child policy, the county is going backward in the respect of gender”, another user said.
Although there is no specific policy on LGBT+ people in China, there have been some ‘positive’ changes in policy related to sexual orientation and gender identity, mostly with regards to public health, according to a report by UNDP, referring to the removal of homosexuality from mental illness list by Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2001.
The report also found more than half (50.5%) of LGBT+ students are reluctant to reveal their gender identity while only 5.1% do. Nearly 40% of students of LGBT+ communities experienced discrimination on campus.
“There are a growing number of LGBT+ NGOs,” said the report, “the Internet, particularly micro-blogs, is used to raise issues in the public sphere.”
“There is a lack of clarity from the government about the censorship of LGBT+ content…broader public discourse of LGBT+ people and identities, as represented in mainstream media coverage, is still inadequate, often stigmatising and based on common stereotypes.”
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