'I am gay' protest rocks China's Weibo after 'clean-up campaign'

Weibo says the three-month campaign will target 'illegal&apos gay and violent content

On Monday, Sina said the clean-up would no longer target gay content.

The outcry reflects a fear that growing censorship tends to ban all gay content as "dirty", a setback for efforts to carve out an online space of tolerance for homosexuality in China's traditionally Confucian society, LGBT advocates say.

Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, has backed down from a plan to ban "gay" content after a protest was seen by millions of users. The posting was viewed almost 6.5 million times.

New York Times quoted a local Chinese newspaper The People's Daily which carried an article saying that being gay or bisexual was "not a disease", but it added that gay people needed to "take on their own social responsibilities while advocating their rights".

"Everyone is unique and sexuality is just one side of us that differs, just like skin color, height and weight", the essay said.

The regulations, which block any portrayal of "abnormal" relations between two people of the same-sex, came into effect at the start of July 2017.

Monday's reversal was met with an outpouring of support.

Weibo said the campaign is to ensure that the company is in line with online content regulations released in June previous year that lump homosexuality in with sexual abuse and violence as constituting "abnormal sexual relationships".

More news: Russian rouble and stocks slide on new sanctions fears, lower oil

A third said: "Although I still don't like you, I thank you".

On Saturday, "The Gay Voice", a popular Weibo page devoted to gay rights issues and gay art, announced to its 230,000-plus followers that it would suspend posting due to an "event of force majeure".

It is the latest sign in a crackdown by the ruling Communist Party to purge the Internet of any content deviating from its "core values of socialism" while stifling criticism of social norms and established policies. Weibo also said that 56,243 violations had already been "cleared" at the time of the notice. A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content. "But today ... I suddenly [find] that in this strong country, Sina Weibo is discriminating against and attacking this sexual minority".

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but the culture is still heavily conservative.

Much of the homosexual content on Weibo is fuelled not by LGBT activists, who are quite low-profile, but by the large online community of "funu" ("rotten girls") - heterosexual women who are avid fans of male gay romances and share comics or stories, frequently erotic.

China has a mixed track record with gay themes in cultural products.

Last month, a Beijing film festival pulled the Oscar-nominated gay-themed film Call Me By Your Name from its calendar without an explanation.

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