Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture:
China's WeChat has sparked international outrage after deleting LGBTQ-related accounts in the country.
The messaging platform is China's most popular app, with over one billion users.
Dozens of university and nongovernment group accounts on LGBTQ issues were shut down at 10pm on Tuesday (6 July 2021), according to multiple reports.
Accounts run by students in Bejing's Peking University and Shanghai's Fudan University were among those affected.
"Suppress freedom of expression"
Speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation, one LGBTQ group founder told AP that they received a notice from WeChat that they had violated rules, but were provided no further information.
According to CNN, one such notice read: "After receiving relevant complaints, all content has been blocked and the account has been put out of service," before apparently citing violation of government regulation on the management of online public accounts.
Over in the US, Democrat spokesperson Ned Price responded to the news and told reporters in Washington: “We oppose the use of network restrictions to suppress freedom of expression online. It does not matter to us whether that is in China or anywhere."
The uni accounts - some officially registered, some not - were said to include personal stories, photos of group events, book and film recommendations, and information about psychological assistance.
CNN reports that one Weibo user reacted by saying: "The era is regressing. China wasn't like this 10 years ago. Gradually we're losing all our freedoms."
China is a one-party state governed by The Communist Party of China. Gay sex has been legal in China since 1997 but the estimated 70 million LGBTQs who call it home - and make up the world's biggest LGBTQ economy - face significant levels of stigma, discrimination and persecution.
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