China cracks down on LGBTQ accounts on WeChat platform
The LGBTQ community in China faced a crackdown when Tencent shut down their accounts on the popular WeChat social media platform.
Many of the deleted accounts were run by university students or were linked to China’s top universities. No reason was given over their deletion.
While China had decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, the LGBTQ community in that country still faces discrimination.
LGBTQ community in China faces online uncertainty
The deletion of the LGBTQ accounts on WeChat has raised fears that China is cracking down on LGBTQ online content.
This has divided many Chinese netizens, with some supporting the LGBTQ community, saying “hang in there” and “do not give up,” while others lauding the crackdown, saying “it was about time.”
Of those WeChat accounts that were closed, many of them showed messages that they had “violated” Internet regulations, but these didn’t go into details.
The notice read: “After receiving relevant complaints, all content has been blocked and the account has been suspended.”
What’s more, the names of the accounts have been deleted and now read “unnamed.”
China’s LGBTQ community react to the crackdown
Two LGBTQ student groups have already issued statements to the shut down: Fudan University’s Zhihe Society and Tsinghua University’s Wudaokou Purple.
The Zhihe Society said, “Our activities will not stop due to the closure. On the contrary, we hope to use this opportunity to start again with a continued focus on gender and society, and to embrace courage and love.”
Meanwhile, Wudaokou Purple expressed frustration that their “years of hard work” had been “burned,” it has only made them closer.
Both students groups are known for advocating LGBT and gender equality, as well as providing support to students on campus.
While the university LGBTQ clubs aren’t officially recognized or even condoned, they’ve been allowed to operate unofficially under the radar.
Chinese online companies take down LGBTQ accounts
Because of China’s strict censorship standards, Chinese companies are liable for financial and other consequences if they fail to comply.
They’re required to carry out censorship on their platforms and even handle the costs. And because there are no clear directives with regard to LGBTQ content, these companies err on the side of caution.
On one hand, while homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 in China, same-sex relations still remains taboo in that country.
Recently, the Beijing International Film Festival had taken out all of Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s sexual identity and AIDs cut from the “Bohemian Rhapsody” documentary.
But in 2018, Weibo’s social media campaign to “clean up” gay-themed posts was rolled back in the face of public outcry. It happened again in 2019 against a decision to shut down a community of lesbian and bisexual women.