Weibo reverses homosexuality policy in China: 'We're no longer targeting gay content'

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Images of hearts and rainbows with slogans "I am a gay, not a pervert" flooded the streets of China as several people protested against popular online website Weibo for removing all such content from its platform which is deemed to be violent or promoting homosexuality.

In the past few days, a blog post (link in Chinese) with the title translated as "HelloSina scum, I am gay" went viral on social-networking app WeChat, even though the original post and its reposts have been deleted numerous times.

In response to the online protests, Weibo announced on Monday that LGBT content would be exempt from censorship.

Sina Weibo is a publicly traded company that depends in large measure on advertising and marketing for revenue.

"We are all gay tonight", read a post from the Beijing LGBT Center, featuring photographs of young men and women.

Weibo-one of the country's most popular social networks-issued a statement that it had begun a three-month "clean-up" campaign on manga, games, short videos and other visual content relating to pornography, violence, and homosexuality.

The widely discussed "gay moment" in Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast was allowed to run uncensored in Chinese cinemas past year, and state newspaper The People's Daily even celebrated the decision on Weibo, posting: "Controversial gay moment kept in Disney's #BeautyAndTheBeast. requires no guidance for minor audience".

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The tag "I am gay" was viewed almost 300 million times on Weibo before being censored on Saturday.

Although China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and the Chinese Psychiatric Society removed "homosexuality" from its Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001, the country remains intolerant toward same-sex relationships.

Hundreds of LGBT people participated in a pride run event in Nanjing on April 14. These procedures occurred in some public, government-run hospitals and in private clinics, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

On Friday, the Twitter-like platform removed or blocked the content as part of a campaign to "purify" the online environment, the state-backed Global Times reported.

"People who are ready to come out are going to be pushed back to where they used to be, faced with pressure and helplessness", he said.

In an interview with CNN, Hua Zile, founder of a Weibo page focused on gay rights that was told it would be shut down, said he felt "totally surprised and touched" by the new announcement. In addition to gay people, the country's liberals who were enraged by the crackdown also made their voices heard. Over the weekend, millions showed their support for China's gay community, using the five-character Chinese-language hashtag phrase "wo shi tongxinglian" ("I am gay").

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