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.
“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.
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.
The blocking of WeChat accounts has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.
But the move was hailed by nationalists online, some of whom claimed, without evidence, that these LGBT groups had been infiltrated by “foreign forces.”
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]. ”