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WeChat deletes dozens of university LGBT accounts in China

On social networks Tuesday, LGBT rights activists protested the brutal closure of these accounts by the Tencent-owned company. The deleted accounts were managed by students from universities in China, including prestigious institutions such as Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Fudan University in Shanghai.

While CNN Business was unable to access those deleted accounts, several subscribers posted screenshots of the notice that greeted them when they landed on the empty accounts pages.

“After receiving relevant complaints, all content was blocked and the account was taken out of service,” the notice said, citing a violation of government regulations on managing public accounts online.

WeChat did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its official mental disorder list in 2001. But same-sex marriage is still illegal in the country, and people who identify as LGBT continue to be victims of. discrimination in the personal and professional spheres. Activists fear that the Communist Party will further crack down on safe spaces for sexual minorities in the country.

LGBT-themed books

Some of the suppressed LGBT groups were registered as student clubs at their universities, while others operated informally. Most of them have been around for years, providing students with a sense of community and much-needed support, with posts ranging from recommendations for LGBT-themed books and movies to counseling resources.

Cathy, director of one of the deleted LGBT groups from a Beijing university, said the six-year-old’s account had around 18,000 subscribers.

The 25-year-old – who has asked to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisals from authorities – has seen discussions about sexuality become more reserved at her university in recent years. In the past, her group could openly advocate for LGBT rights on campus and organize small seminars for sexual minorities to share their stories. Now their offline activities are limited to private gatherings, like sharing a meal or watching a movie together, she said.

“In recent years, our focus has just been to survive, to continue to be able to serve LGBT students and provide warmth for them. Basically we don’t engage in radical advocacy anymore,” added Cathy.

Last August, Shanghai Pride, the oldest and only major annual celebration of sexual minorities in China, abruptly announced its closure after facing increasing pressure from local authorities.
Last month, soccer star Li Ying officially appeared as a lesbian in a post on Weibo, becoming the first high-performance Chinese athlete to do so. Li, who plays for the national football team, then deleted the post, which garnered widespread support but also a wave of homophobic attacks.

The blocking of WeChat accounts has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

“The era is regressing. China was not like this 10 years ago. Little by little, we are losing all our freedoms,” a comment on Weibo said.

But the move was hailed by nationalists online, some of whom claimed, without evidence, that these LGBT groups had been infiltrated by “foreign forces.”

“I support the blocking of accounts … why should we keep these public accounts run by anti-Chinese forces in our higher education institutions? haven’t formed their values ​​yet? ” commented on Weibo.

Cathy, of the Beijing LGBT group, called the claim “completely ridiculous.”

“Sexual minority groups have been around for a long time in China, not because of any incitement from so-called foreign forces,” she said. “They do not understand [the LGBT community] at all, and have no intention of understanding [us]. ”

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