On the same day that same-sex marriage was legalized in Germany, Chinese regulators issued new criteria for online programs that classify homosexuality as an “abnormal sexual relationship.”
According to the new regulations that were released on Friday, online videos in mainland China can no longer portray “abnormal sexual relations,” listing homosexuality together with incest and sexual abuse.
“It won’t be long before our voice will be gone from Weibo. If we disappear, we hope you won’t give up.”
The new criteria drew a lot of criticism on social media. Many Chinese LGBT groups, including Comrade’s Voice (@同志之声: ‘comrade’- tóngzhì – is a common way to refer to gays), denounced how Chinese regulators represented homosexuality. Comrade’s Voice even made a public plea, asking the regulators to correct their “errors,” as they are “harmful to China’s LGBT community.”
Their Weibo post received over 23330 comments and 90000 shares within 24 hours. The post has since been locked for further comments.
On July 1st, Comrade’s Voice wrote that their options for posting and commenting on Weibo had become limited, and that there were indications their account, which has over 160670 followers, might soon be closed by online regulators.
“We want to thank everyone for making Comrade’s Voice such a powerful voice since it came into being in 2009. Our [recent] post received over 80.000 shares (..), we thank you for your courageous voices. The post has now been disabled for commenting and sharing. As we’ve seen with others, it won’t be long before our voice will be gone from Weibo. If we disappear, we hope you will not give up on any opportunity to let your voices be heard. Equal rights don’t come dropping from the sky. Please be kind-hearted and loving, please stay positive about the future. Our work won’t stop (..). Our existence is in your hands.”
Many commenters showed their support. One woman wrote: “As a mother, I won’t stop fighting – my child has the right to choose whoever she wants to love when she grows up.”
“I love men! I am guilty! I am at fault! I am inhumane!”
As news of the new criteria went viral on Chinese social media, news of the legalization of gay marriage in Germany also made headlines – only adding more fuel to the fire.
“I just don’t know how to respond to this,” one female netizen wrote: “I see both of these news items together in the list of trending topics,.. one about Germany’s gay marriage legalization, and the other about Chinese censorship of displays of homosexuality,..”
“The opposite of this progress is what is happening in China,” one person responded with a broken heart emoticon.
Others also pointed out that while Germany is going a step forward, China is going a step backwards (“一个在进步 一个在倒退”), especially now that online censorship has been sharpened. One person wrote:
“Why don’t we just go back to dynastic rule?1 (..) Love for the country and love for the Party is not the same thing. I love China dearly. But now I can’t do anything but helplessly look how she is being pestered. The 404 error pages just keep coming. The Hou Liang Ping case2, the Chinese table tennis team3, the Shanghai Nanjing West street incident4, etc etc. Is 2017 the year that things are going downhill? It is not that we do not love our country, but our country does not love us.”
Another male netizen wrote:
“I love men! I am guilty! I am at fault! I am inhumane! I will wear the dunce cap (高帽子) and the horizontal banner, so that all the people can criticize and humiliate me!”5
In large numbers, Weibo netizens applauded Germany’s new law and expressed their support for China’s gay community. “I am not gay, but I am rooting for you,” many said.
“Thank you all for raising your voices for the gay community. I know that the majority of people are heterosexual, but the fact that you are supportive gives us great courage,” one 21-year-old netizen wrote.
“In reality, there are still many people in society who cannot accept gays.”
“In Taiwan, gay marriage is legalized. In Germany , gay marriage is legalized. In China, homosexuality is ‘abonormal sexual behavior’,” some commenters wrote.
Many jokingly said that China might as well go back to the times when men wore a braided queue and women had their feet bound.
Although the vast majority of people on Weibo speak out in support of the LGBT community, there are also people who point out that these supportive voices on social media do not necessarily reflect the reality. He writes: “Online, you see how the majority of people here feel about homosexuality, but in reality, there are still many people in society who cannot accept gays. As for me, I would already be very happy if my family could accept my sexual orientation.”
But today, rainbow flags are ubiquitous on Weibo and anti-gay comments are difficult to find. Virtually all commenters seem to agree that defining homosexuality as an “abnormality” along with incest and perversity, on the same day that Germany becomes the 23rd country to legalise gay maririage, is a step back for China.
One Weibo blogger by the name of TangTang posted on July 1st:
“I oppose the new online regulations.
1. Please tell me what freedom of speech is, because is this what it’s supposed to be?
2. I am not homosexual, but I will defend to the death the rights of gay people.
3. I will wait and see when this post gets deleted.”
1*”现在的中国 要不把辫子留起来吧” Freely translated. Commenter literally says “how about we bring back the braids,” referring to the common hairstyle of the Qing dynasty. The braided queue was also a sign of repression.
2 This is about allegations of sexual abuse at Beijing Film Academy: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/06/13/social-media-users-fight-back-weibo-censors-allegations-sexual-abuse-beijing-film-academy/
3 About the turmoil in the national table tennis team: https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2017/06/minitrue-quiet-top-players-ping-pong-protest/
4 East Nanjing Road protest over housing crackdown: http://shanghaiist.com/2017/06/12/shanghai-property-protest.php
5Practice during Cultural Revolution: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-19807561
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