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China’s Weibo site backtracks on gay censorship after outcry 

Beijing, April 16

One of China’s top social networking sites announced on Monday that it will no longer be censoring content related to gay issues after the plan triggered a loud public outcry.Weibo.com was flooded over the weekend with the hashtags “#I’mGay” and “#I’mGayNotaPervert” after the Twitter-like platform said that cartoons and short videos with pornographic, violent or gay subject matter would be investigated over a three-month period.The micro-blogging 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.”A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content.The investigation will instead “primarily focus on pornographic and violent material,” Weibo’s statement said.“Thank you everyone for your discussions and suggestions.” Regulators have been ratcheting up control over Chinese micro-blogs in recent months, ordering operators like Weibo to set up a mechanism to remove false information after criticising it for allowing prohibited material to spread. It was the latest of new measures imposed by President Xi Jinping’s government to tighten control over what China’s public can see and say online while still trying to reap the economic benefits of internet use.The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s internet regulator, did not immediately comment.While homosexuality is not illegal in China and few Chinese have religious objections to it, a traditional, conservative preference for conventional marriage and childbearing creates barriers for LGBT people.More than a million users have viewed hashtags in support of LGBT rights, with many sharing their own experiences as an LGBT person or a parent of one.Hua Zile, the founder of “Gay Voices,” Weibo’s first LGBT-themed account, said he was encouraged by the outrage against the site’s censorship plan.“The response shows that we LGBT people in China are slowly realising our rights,” Hua said. “Gay people who would not have spoken out years ago are now letting their voices be heard.”On Sunday, more than 20,000 people marched in a “Rainbow Marathon” in Nanjing to raise awareness of LGBT issues. While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organiser, Lucas Chen, said Weibo’s announcement gave it “added significance.”“The main objective of the marathon is to help everyone courageously come out of the closet,” Chen said.       “So it was meaningful that people online were also bravely speaking out and showing that they were not defeated by negativity.”

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