China shuts down social media accounts of LGBT & student organisations
The accounts on Chinese social media app WeChat were permanently closed on Tuesday amid an crackdown on organisations deemed a “bad influence” by the ruling Communist Party.
They included accounts linked to top universities, such as the Sex-Gender Study Community of Renmin University, Peking University ColorsWorld and the Shanghai-based Fudan University Zhihe Society.
The account of an off-campus organisation, the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association in China (GLCAC), which cooperates with universities in the Guangzhou area, was also banned.
The pages of these accounts on WeChat now show a message saying: “According to internet regulations, we have screened all content and suspended this account”.
Members of several LGBT+ groups told Reuters access to their accounts was blocked and they later discovered that all of their content had been deleted.
“Many of us suffered at the same time,” said the account manager of one group who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“They censored us without any warning. All of us have been wiped out.”
The Cyberspace Administration of China recently announced that it would crack down on social media groups deemed a “bad influence”.
The deleting of accounts comes after the loyalty of LGBT+ university groups to the government and Communist Party was discussed in meeting in May.
The meeting was between student groups and university representatives of the Communist Youth League – a department in charge of student affairs run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to three sources.
The sources declined to be identified or state which universities the meetings took place, but they said LGBT+ student groups were asked if they were anti-Party or anti-China, and whether any of their funds had originated from abroad.
“We explained that our LGBT education work was within campus only,” one university student told Reuters.
“After our meeting in May we were dismantled.”
LGBT+ student groups traditionally do not get the support of university authorities in their work to raise awareness of the community, even though they are not banned outright.
Ou Jiayong, an LGBT+ activist also known as Xixi, told the South China Morning Post the CCP may consider the groups “dangerous” as they were places where students learned about social activism and civil society.
In 2017, Xixi and her friends had taken to court the publisher of a university textbook that described homosexuality as a “psychological disorder”. In 2020, the Suyu District People’s Court in Suqian held that opposing views of Xixi and the publisher were due to differences in opinion instead of being a factual error. She lost an appeal earlier this year.
Anti-LGBT+ people in China hailed the closures of the WeChat groups as a “victory”.
Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, was reported by the South China Morning Post to have said on WeChat that foreign forces were trying to contain China by introducing “Western identity politics” to Chinese students.
A Beijing official working in ideological affairs has also told the newspaper that “identity politics” will divide a country into different groups, and said China must “withstand the pressure” and “be alert”.
All mentions to homosexuality in Chinese criminal law were removed in 1997 and the Chinese Society of Psychiatry declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 2001. However, there are currently no specific laws prohibiting discrimination against gay people.