China's Weibo backtracks on 'homosexual content' ban

LGBT community fumes as Weibo China's version of Twitter decides to ban gay content

"In the 48 hours, thanks to you".

The official People's Daily newspaper of the ruling Communist Party on Sunday encouraged tolerance towards gay people, but added that "vulgar" content must be removed regardless of sexual orientation.

"Everyone is unique and sexuality is just one side of us that differs, just like skin color, height and weight", the essay said. Gay love and LGBT culture have always been sensitive issues and constant censorship topics in the state's online crackdown.

"I feel totally surprised and touched", Hua Zile, the page's founder told CNN on Monday in response to the rule reversal.

The reference to Weibo's repressive guidelines from Friday prompted a flood of popular support, with users of all backgrounds taking up and retweeting the #iamgay hashtag throughout the weekend.

"Through everyone's unrelenting efforts, we finally got a basic right - how rare!" wrote another.

Others called on the company to restore content that it had already deleted in the campaign, including a popular Weibo account called the Gay Voice, which published cultural news and podcasts for its more than 230,000 followers.

Internet users welcomed the change on Monday.

"The clean-up campaign will not target homosexual content, as it is meant to focus on cleaning up pornographic and violent content", the site said in an official post on Monday.

The latest controversy came after Weibosaid (link in Chinese) Friday evening that it would for the next three months clear cartoons, games and videos, including those that have gay themes or are violent or pornographic, citing "laws and regulations".

China has a notorious history with censorship - generally as it involves sex, violence and the portrayal of China itself - but its record on homosexual-themed content and LGBT matters has been mixed.

Xiao Tie said the homosexuality ban was a result of over-cautiousness in the absence of specific information from authorities on what kind of content should be censored.

Weibo's initial announcement received hundreds of thousands of comments and shares, with the majority criticising the decision to clamp down on gay content.

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

Homosexuality has not been criminalised in China since 1997, yet as the Economist explains, Chinese officials are far from amenable to assertions of rights by any societal group and even went so far as to ban "the depiction of homosexuals on television - not that there were many in the first place".

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