Chinese social network Weibo will no longer ban gay content

Weibo says the three-month campaign will target ‘illegal’ gay and violent content

Chinese social media network Sina Weibo has backtracked from a controversial gay content ban after a massive outcry.

On Friday Weibo said it would remove pornographic, violent or gay videos and cartoons in a three-month campaign, singling out a genre of manga animations and comics that often depict raunchy gay male relationships.

It said: "The clean-up is no longer targeted at homosexual content, and is mainly to clean up the subjects related to pornography and violence. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions". 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".

By Sunday the Global Times weighed in, with an item encouraging tolerance toward LGBT people while drawing a line for "vulgar" content that must be removed.

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.

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"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.

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

"I think Sina (Weibo) overinterpreted the official stance on gay issues", said Wei Liang, and LGBT rights activist who works for the NGOs PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China and LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

Internet users welcomed the change on Monday.

The microblogging service, which boasts almost 400 million active users, had vowed Friday to remove all gay-themed cartoons and videos - along with pornographic and violent material - to comply with Chinese laws and regulations. Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but activists say the conservative attitudes of some parts of society have prompted occasional government clampdowns.

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"The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn", Xiao said on Sunday.

China's internet censors previously announced intentions to ban gay content from the internet.

Sina Weibo has around 400 million active monthly users and the backlash caused Nasdaq shares in the company to fall, prompting it to reverse its decision.

China has a mixed track record with gay themes in cultural products.

Award-winning gay romance "Call Me By Your Name" was also dropped from a Chinese film festival last month.

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