China's version of Twitter, Weibo, has reversed a ban on gay content after an outcry accused the company of smearing homosexuality by lumping it with pornography as it tried to meet government censorship rules.
The decision on Weibo's part to initiate the "cleanup" is seen as part of a larger move under President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to stifle discussion despite China's having legalized homosexuality in 1997, reports Newsweek.
The microblogging site, which saw its Nasdaq shares fall on Friday, said in its amended post: "This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target 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 said: "The clean-up is no longer targeted at homosexual content, and is mainly to clean up the subjects related to pornography and violence".
"This is to further ensure a clear and harmonious society and environment", a statement on Weibo's official administrator's account read when it made the announcement to remove LGBT content. "We must pressure these companies and show them it's not easy to discriminate against an entire community - no matter who orders them to do it".
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The hashtag "I am gay" was viewed almost 300 million times on Weibo before being censored on Saturday.
The site attempted to crack down on the protest by deleting posts and censoring words such as "gay".
"There can be no homosexuality under socialism?" a Weibo user wrote, according to Agence France-Presse. The Chinese characters meaning gay occupies the second spot on a current list of Weibo's Top 10 blocked terms, according to freeweibo.com, a website that tracks censorship.
One user wrote "We comment on the Internet, everywhere, against the announcement". 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. The reference to Weibo's repressive guidelines from Friday prompted a flood of popular support, with users of all backgrounds taking up and retweeting the #iamgay hashtag throughout the weekend. A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content.
"Seven years ago, not that many people were willing to make their voices heard this way", he added.
Gay conversion therapy is still fairly common with many stories of people being forced into facilities for "treatments" aimed at changing an individual's sexual orientation.