As we reported earlier in the week, microblogging platform Sina Weibo’s April 13 announcement that it would ban homosexual content led to a huge chain effect on Chinese social media. One of the biggest shockwaves came when Weibo account “同志之声 The LGBTQ Voice” — the first LGBTQ-related self-publishing-media, with 230,000 followers as of last Friday — announced that it would suspend its operations due to “force majeure.”
Elsewhere on the platform, a video of people in Chengdu wearing shirts reading “I’m gay” and “Would you hug me?” (pictured above) and offering hugs to strangers on the street has been viewed over 26.5 million times, while the hashtag “I’m Gay” took off almost immediately after Sina’s announcement, and has racked up around 570 million views over the last three days.
Online “Clean Up” Continues as Weibo Targets Homosexual Content and Grand Theft Auto [updated]
It didn’t stop there. Raymond Phang, co-founder of mainland China’s biggest annual LGBTQ pride event ShanghaiPRIDE, told RADII, “There were also organizations calling the community and allies to stand up and show acceptance and support towards homosexuality.”
And it made a difference.
On April 15, State-backed newspaper People’s Daily posted a commentary on their official WeChat account. Introducing a sex education textbook that is taught to elementary school students in China, the article explains, “Sexual orientation comes in more than one type; homosexuality and heterosexuality are both normal, and are not illnesses at all.” Respecting “individual rights” and “minority rights” embodies the civilization of society, the article continues. “It is the faith of society to eliminate discrimination and to understand differences — we can learn more from this textbook.”
Although the article does not explicitly refer to the Weibo “clean up”, People’s Daily did repost it on its official Weibo account.
Phang doesn’t believe the People’s Daily op-ed reflects “the attitude of the authorities,” since “there was no formal statement in the article or in the headline” — it was just an opinion piece. However, he adds, “it can still be seen as a positive move from mainstream media — at least someone cared to write about it and publish it.”
Yesterday, Weibo announced that they would revoke their ban, and will not “target homosexual content any longer.” Two hours later, The LGBTQ Voice resumed transmission, announcing: “‘The LGBTQ Voice’ is back to updating. It proves that only speaking up can make a difference.”
“The LGBTQ Voice” returns
Can we see the online movement that took place over the last few days as a victory? Phang’s reply is measured: “I would not say it’s a victory, but a positive move. At least they tried to clarify things. Others earlier did not even try or care.”
In the mean time, he says, “voices from the public and community were heard… LGBTQ topics will certainly gain more attention as we move forward. We have received many messages regarding our events in June, and are gaining more interest.”
Cover image: Sina Weibo
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