Netizen Voices: LGBT Groups, #MeToo Activist Shut Down By WeChat, Weibo

Late in the evening on Tuesday, July 6, WeChat simultaneously deleted dozens of LGBTQ+-related public accounts. A number of these were run by student groups at China’s most prestigious universities, and had operated for years without issue, amassing tens of thousands of followers. WeChat did not explain its decision. At Vice News, Viola Zhou reported on the important role the university LGBTQ+ groups have played on their campuses:

“This was a sleepless night for everyone,” Zhuzi, a 35-year-old graduate from Fudan University in Shanghai, told VICE World News. They declined to provide a full name due to the sensitivity of the issue. “They are making it look like China has no gay people. This is very dumb, evil, and ignorant.”

Zhuzi identifies as a non-binary person and was struggling with shame and loneliness while being raised in a conservative part of northwestern China. At Zhihe Society, a gender-focused group founded by Fudan University students in 2006, they met other gay people for the first time in the real world, learned about feminism, and came to accept their identity. The group got its WeChat account shuttered at 9:53 p.m. on Tuesday, it said on microblogging site Weibo.

[…] The campus queer groups are where many gay students network, discuss their LGBTQ identities, and support each other. The suppression will likely drive the groups into the underground, fuel self-censorship, and deter gay students from coming out on campus, [Cui Le, a researcher on queer issues in China’s education sector with the University of Auckland]. [Source]

CDT Chinese collected public commentary, a selection of which is translated here:

谋杀恒星未遂: Help… I’m a frog in a pot and the water is getting hotter. I’m about to be boiled alive!

地表最甜冲浪选手: I’ve long expected this day. We’re all frogs in a pot. Today they shut down a hashtag. Tomorrow they’ll suspend this account. Words can’t be posted and pictures are automatically filtered. The windows for speaking have all been closed. In the end we’ll stand in front of the window yelling: We’re not wrong. If you don’t believe us, listen to the crowd’s voice. Look, nobody is saying it needs to be like this.

清之inter:Whatever your sexual orientation, go birth three children for me.

爱岗的小宜: This is why I don’t hope for unification with Taiwan (because Taiwan legalized gay marriage) After unification the state will definitely adopt a new National Security Law and rewrite Taiwanese law.

我写不出论文啦啦啦啦啦:I’ve already lost faith and hope in the nation on these matters. I guess I’m a monster.

我写不出论文啦啦啦啦啦:Putin can say in interviews, “There are no gays in Russia.” Some people must be jealous, hoping in their hearts that one day they too can proudly say: “There are no gays in China.”

上校在下雨:If Chinese people aren’t being controlled are they still Chinese? Macau, Hong Kong, LGBT, peasants, capitalists, bureaucrats, little pinks, Americanophiles … Hehe, daddy’s got all of you under control, once you’re under control you’re Chinese.

每颗土豆:Unnamed account, unnamed group, unnamed love. [Chinese]

Members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face discrimination from both state and society. At the AFP, Jing Xuan Teng and Laurie Chen reported that a number of LGBTQ+ student groups had been harassed in the weeks leading up to the ban:

Sun Wenlin, co-founder of the China Marriage Equality Advocacy Network, told AFP that the way the accounts were blocked in one go suggested “someone at a government department may have written an internal report for higher-ups” that included a list of LGBTQ social media groups.

A member of a small LGBTQ NGO who asked to remain anonymous told AFP that representatives from the student groups had been “invited for tea on a large scale in the past two months”, using a term for meetings with the authorities intended to intimidate potentially subversive individuals. [Source]

The Guardian’s Vincent Ni and Helen Davidson reported on the crackdown:

“Both feminist and LGBT student organisations are seen as being influenced by western values or manipulated by foreign powers, so: purge them all,” [feminist activist Xiong Jing] said. “This is not only homophobia but also political stigma towards non-governmental groups [including students clubs] in a continuous crackdown on civil society in China.”

[…] “A degree of official indifference had allowed [China’s] LGBT advocacy to thrive in a grey space, but that space is now being squeezed down,” said Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale law school’s Paul Tsai China Center

[…] Hu Xijin, the editor of the nationalistic, state-owned tabloid the Global Times, wrote in a WeChat article that the state puts “no restriction on sexual minorities’ lifestyle choices”, but that LGBT people should “be more patient” and “not try to become a high-profile ideology”. [Source]

The BBC reported on two of the school groups’ reactions to their closure:

“Our activities will not stop due to the closure. On the contrary, we hope to use this opportunity to start again with a continued focus on gender and society, and to embrace courage and love,” Fudan University’s Zhihe Society Fudan University’s Zhihe Society said.

Meanwhile, Tsinghua University’s Wudaokou Purple said that although it was “frustrated” that its “years of hard work” had been “burned” at one go, it has only made them closer.

[…] The US State Department told reporters on Wednesday it was “concerned” that the accounts were deleted when they “were merely expressing their views, exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech”. [Source]

Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang at CNN reported on soccer star Li Ying’s coming out and subsequent silence:

During this year’s Pride Month, soccer star Li Ying made history as China’s first female athlete to come out publicly as gay, in a candid series of celebratory photos posted on social media, showing her posing happily alongside her partner.

[…] Her post, uploaded on June 22 onto Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, immediately went viral, becoming one of the top trending topics on the platform. And while much of the reaction was positive, with people sending their congratulations, Li’s account was also inundated with a wave of homophobic abuse. The post was later deleted without explanation.

Li has not posted on Weibo since. Chinese state-run media, meanwhile, did not report on Li’s announcement, nor the subsequent reaction it generated. [Source]

The day after WeChat shut the college LGBTQ+ accounts, Weibo suspended #MeToo pioneer Zhou Xiaoxuan’s account for a year. Zhou is also known by her online alias Xianzi. In late May, Zhou published an essay detailing “illegal and unreasonable” obstacles in her court case against Zhu Jun, a prominent television host she accuses of sexually harassing her while she interned at China Central Television.

On Twitter, author Leta Hong Fincher wrote about the sometimes difficult relationship between feminist groups and LGBTQ+ groups:

Updated at 15:41:34 PDT on Aug 20, 2021: The date in the first line of this post was corrected.


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.