China's Weibo backflips on gay content ban amid fierce backlash

Rainbow flags flowed through the streets of Hong Kong on November 25 during the city's annual pride parade as LGBT activists criticised author

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"I think Sina (Weibo) overinterpreted the official stance on gay issues", said Wei Liang, and LGBT rights activist who works for the NGOs PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China and LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

On Monday, Sina backtracked and said the clean-up would no longer target homosexual content.

Starting Friday, Weibo users found a block on hashtags related to "slash" fiction - fan's depictions of steamy same-sex pairs like Thor/Loki or Sherlock/Watson. Last summer, for example, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) sent a notice to online literature platforms that they would be judged based on how well their content promotes "the core values of socialism".

Gay Voices, which has since 2009 been one of Weibo's major LGBT accounts with some 230,000 followers, had on Friday declared it would be forced to indefinitely suspend its postings. 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.

Others pointed out homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997 and in 2001 removed from the government's list of mental disorders, the Guardian reported.

The Twitter-like site, which has about 400 million active users, announced the clean-up campaign over the weekend with new guidelines that cracked down on LGBTQ content, as well as violent and pornographic material.

This announcement and policy change was in an effort to comply with China's harsh internet censorship laws that prohibit gay content along with depictions of violence, underage drinking/drug use, pornographic content, and more.

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

"We thank all for your discussions and suggestions", it said in a brief statement posted to its website. "It's awesome to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

As Weibo revised its decision, a new flood of comments welcomed the move, with the LGBT Weibo account declaring "a step forward" in respect. Obviously then, the decision has left Chinese gay community absolutely fuming.

The site attempted to crack down on the protest by deleting posts and censoring words such as "gay".

The Twitter-like site provoked outrage when it said it would investigate cartoons and videos with "gay subject matter".

People's Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, on Sunday encouraged tolerance towards gay people, but added that "vulgar" content must be removed regardless of sexual orientation.

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