China’s leading social media platform, WeChat, quietly removed over a dozen public LGBT+ accounts on Tuesday evening. The deleted accounts belonged to LGBT+ student clubs at prestigious Chinese universities as well as gender-equality organisations.

The clubs operated the accounts as safe spaces for queer students and provided them with resources, a sense of community and much needed support. Many of the student groups were already struggling to gain recognition from their own universities prior to the accounts being shutdown.

On Tuesday evening their accounts were blocked and the next day, all of their content had been scrubbed while their account usernames were replaced with the title ‘Unnamed Account’. 

Groups Accused Of Violating Regulations

A notice on the group pages said “relevant reports from users” had pushed WeChat to terminate the pages because they “violated regulations”. Yet the students were unaware of any specific violations they had made.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997, same-sex marriage is still illegal in China and up until 2001, homosexuality was classified as a ‘mental disorder’.

One of the accounts, belonging to a feminist group called the Shihe Society at Fudan University in Shanghai, confirmed their WeChat accounts’ removal in a post on Weibo. The post had been shared over 10,000 times and read, “We were able to create a reliable channel with the outside, but now our communication will largely rely on Weibo and private WeChat groups” reported The Guardian. 

Increasing Intolerance Towards LGBTQI+

Like the ‘Shihe Society’, both the WeChat profiles of ‘Gay Pride’ from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and ‘ColorsWorld’ from Peking University in Beijing were also scrubbed of all content and shutdown.

In a meeting in May, LGBT+ students had met with university representatives of the Communist Youth League, a department in charge of student affairs run by the Chinese Communist Party, to discuss the students’ loyalty to the Chinese government. In this meeting the students, who wish to remain anonymous, were asked if their clubs received any funding from overseas and if they were ‘anti-Party or anti-China’ according to NBC.

The removal of these accounts is another example of an increasing intolerance towards LGBTIQ+ people and communities in China. Last year, Shanghai Pride was abruptly cancelled in August after running uninterrupted for twelve years. The event organisers cited mounting pressure from local authorities as the reason for the event’s demise, despite it being the only celebration of its kind in China.

Prior to that, in 2019 Weibo was accused of removing all comments and posts with the hashtag #les. Weibo users also reported that they were unable to use the rainbow flag in their bios, as they had previously done. This is believed to be a sign of the Chinese government’s rising concerns of outspoken minority groups.

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