Chinese college students who wish to discuss LGBTQ+ issues and sexuality may have permanently lost their safe space on WeChat.
On the evening of July 6th, over 20 WeChat accounts run by LGBTQ+ student groups at a variety of Chinese universities were shut down.
Xiaolan Sanhao Ji, a Weibo account that mainly shares LGBTQ-related posts, first reported the news. In its post, Xiaolan shared a series of screenshots of the most influential university student-run LGBTQ+ WeChat accounts, including colorsworld from Peking University, Purple from Tsinghua University, and WHU out of Wuhan University. These now-defunct accounts have lost their profile pictures and all historical posts, while their bios currently read this same auto-generated line:
“This account has been reported to have violated The Regulation of Internet Public Account Information & Service Administration. All posts and services of this account have been blocked, and this account has ceased operation.”
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Within two hours, WeChat Official Account “Chiapas East Wind Radio” compiled an incomplete list of accounts that had been shut down. By the time Chiapas’ post went live, the number of LGBTQ+ accounts which had been shut down hit 17.
That number has now surpassed 20, according to Xiaolan’s comment section. But before Chiapas could update its post, its own account was also closed. The link to Chiapas’ original article now reads, “This account has been blocked, and its content is not available.”
Chinese university’s have given rise to a diverse group of LGBTQ+ student organizations in recent times. Although not recognized by their corresponding colleges, and therefore being forced to operate underground, these groups have served as vital components of China’s LGBTQ+ community.
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For example, colorsworld used to organize “Mysterious Closets” every Friday. Participating users could match with an anonymous colorsworld member to discuss identity, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ history. Besides, the organization has written extensively on the topic of how to live as a person of the sexual minority in China. Their “Guide for LGBT Freshman” is still accessible via wemp.com.
Zhihe of Fudan University, on the other hand, was known for its extensive focus on scholarly discourse, from the history of feminist movements to the injustice of epistemology.
These student organizations that have had their WeChat accounts shut down have begun to respond publicly via other social media platforms. Colorsworld announced a “Revival Plan” on Douban and will carry all further actions via GitHub, headquartered in San Francisco. Zhihe released a public statement and provided a contact email through which “every message sent to us will be replied.” The email was registered via protonmail.com, whose server is located in Switzerland.
“Since 2005, Zhihe… has always strived for creating an inclusive and equal school environment,” Zhihe’s statement reads, “Our effort will not be shut down along with our WeChat account. Instead, we wish this incident can be a new starting point for us, to focus on sexuality, and to embrace courage and love.”
Cover image via Depositphotos
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