Chinese Social Media Site Reverses Gay Content Ban After Uproar

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In a quick about face, China's Sina Weibo messaging service has reversed a ban on gay-themed content.

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

Despite China decriminalising homosexuality in 1997, and homosexuality being removed from the government's list of Mental Disorders in 2001, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding same-sex relationships in the country.

The main targets initially included pornographic, violent and gay-themed cartoons, pictures, videos and articles, as well as content such as "slash, gay, boys love and gay fictional stories", a notice posted by Sina Weibo's administration account said.

The official Sina Weibo account states that the new guidelines were implemented to "fulfill corporate responsibility" and to "create a bright and harmonious community environment".

The post drew more than 24,000 comments, was forwarded more than 110,000 times, and prompted users to protest against the decision, using the hashtag "I am gay". "Weibo finally withdrew its wrong decision".

"I am gay and I'm proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me!" wrote one user who went by the handle "rou wan xiong xiong xiong xiong".

Weibo's announcement triggered public outrage. The event had in fact been planned and approved by local authorities before the Weibo ban was announced, but it took on greater meaning as a result of the crackdown, organizers said in a Weibo post (link in Chinese)."This is the kind of day worth remembering for a lifetime", they wrote, adding that Weibo shut down the event's live stream.

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". 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.

By around noon on Saturday, the hashtag #Iamgay had been used by roughly 170,000 people before being reportedly banned, according to Agence France-Presse.

China's LGBT community and their allies responded immediately to the announcement with hashtag campaigns, with the declaration #我是同性恋# (I am gay) reaching almost 300 million views before it was blocked on Saturday.

There are about 70M LGBT people on the Chinese mainland.

Just last week the site's owners revealed it would be banning all content - including photos and videos - that were "related to homosexuality". Still, some said the company owed gays an apology. "It's unbelievable to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".