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Gay Pride & Gay Rights in China: The Status Quo (Liveblog)

What are the main challenges for gays in China? What is the current LGBT situation in the PRC? And what is the Dutch foreign policy stance on this issue? These questions will be addressed at this event.




“Gay Pride in the Netherlands and China – LGBT Rights in the Dutch China Policy”, Panel Discussion

Date: August 1st, 2014

Place: De Rode Hoed, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

By: The Asia & Oceania Department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Discussion leader: Garrie van Pinxteren

Blogged by: Manya Koetse 

What are the main challenges for gays in China? What is the current LGBT situation in the PRC? And what is the Dutch foreign policy stance on this issue? These questions will be addressed at today’s event, jointly organized by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Radio Netherlands Worldwide, taking place in Amsterdam at the time of the Gay Pride 2014. What’s on Weibo will shortly liveblog this event from 14:30 to 16.00 (CET), be sure to ‘refresh’ the page to see new updates. (Update: Live blog now closed.)


The panel discussion is about to commence. Outside the venue is a large mirror where participants can take ‘selfies’ and twitter them with hashtag #standbyme.



While participants are slowly gathering in the conference room at Amsterdam’s Rode Hoed, a short round-up of current news on homosexuality in China: a big story made the headlines over the previous week. As the Washington Post reported on the 31st of July, gay activists sued a counseling center in Beijing on Thursday over a “conversion therapy” that is supposed to ‘cure’ Chinese homosexuals.”Homosexuality doesn’t need to be cured!”, protesters chanted outside the Beijing courthouse. Homosexuality was no longer defined as a mental disorder in China since 2001.


Garrie van Pinxteren is the moderator of today’s discussion. There is a delegation from China here today from different fields: journalists, bloggers and activists – a total of eight people. One of them is Mrs. Li Yinhe, a well-known sociologist, sexologist, and activist for LGBT rights in China. Also at the table is Mr. Wang Chong, chief executive of Phoenix Core Project of Ifeng. Ifeng offers LGBT community an online platform in China to share LGBT news, exchanges and information. Mr. Geng Le, another panelist, is a human rights activist and Chinese ‘pink economy’ pioneer. He is the founder of the NGO Danlan, which aims to provide news and dating service to the Chinese LGBT group.

First, Mrs. Dewi van de Weerd from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs addresses the audience. Mrs. Van de Weerd is coordinator of the Human Rights team, working at the Dutch embassy in Beijing from 2000 till 2004. “Equality is on the top of our list,” she says, and the LGBT is an important group where equality needs to be stressed: “Homosexuality is still a criminal offense in over eighty countries.” It is especially important for the Netherlands to emphasize this equality, as it was the first country in the world where same-sex marriage came into effect. There are many organizations that want to become NGO’s, but do not know how: “We help them building their capacity,” Van de Weerd says.


Garrie van Pinxteren talks about her experiences as an exchange student in China in 1982. When she ‘came out’ to her Chinese room mate, she did not react as Van Pinxteren expected; she did not react at all. “I then realized the taboo that came with being gay in China,” Van Pinxteren says. The question is: how is the situation in China today? What has changed since 1982?


“Chinese politicians would say: “China is different from other countries- you have homosexuality, we don’t.” 


In 1982, Li Yinhe says, little was known about homosexuality in China. It was not allowed. At the time, Chinese politicians would say: “China is different from other countries- you have homosexuality, we don’t.” Homosexuality was never in the public discourse. But now, Li Yinhe says, China is heading to a sexual revolution. Homosexuality is a topic that is talked about much more nowadays.

The founder of Danlan, Geng Le, was once threatened for openly being gay and publishing the LGBT scene. Much has changed since the 1980s, Geng Le says: ” The most important shift started around the Beijing Olympics of 2008, when there was more openness on the Internet. Danlan is now allowed by the Chinese government, and is not blocked, because Geng convinced the government that openness about homosexuality is crucial in HIV prevention.

Garrie van Pinxteren addresses another question: “Why would the Chinese government have any fear at all about talking about LGBT groups? There isn’t any politics in being gay, or is there?”  


“The government is not against homosexuality, they are against sex in general.” 



“They are not against homosexuality, necessarily,” Li Yinhe says: “They are against sex in general. China has the most strict laws in the world concerning sex. In 1997 China basically used criminal law to punish all extramarital sex.” Li Yinhe tells of one case where a Chinese woman was punished for having sex with various men, without even prostituting herself. Having sex with more than two people is considered a crime, and prostitution is still illegal in China. In traditional Chinese culture, sex was considered a healthy thing to do, but at a certain point in history sex became stigmatized. There was even a Chinese saying: ‘you’d rather starve to death than lose your virginity’. The way sex was controlled also changed.

“What are the real taboos on the subject of LGBT in China?”, Van Pinxteren asks.

“Criticizing the government in any way,” Geng Le answers. “We focus on two things; we translate a huge amount of foreign news on LGBT issues, and we talk about how local activist groups are doing. We are basically saying good things about the government- even if they only make one step forward, we make it seem like it is an enormous improvement. We are trying to convince the government that LGBT issues are not political – they are about human rights. We should let the gay people in China live in dignity.”


Geng Le talks about the government’s fear on homosexuality. If gays stand up in China, they could potentially have some political influence because of their magnitude, Geng Le explains. Another factor is that players in the international field use the gay issue as a piggyback when pressing China for other issues.

The discussion shifts to the topic of same-sex marriage: “There’s still a long way to go,” Geng Le says: “Gay marriage is a a legal concept- but the general improvement on gay issues in China does not necessarily lie in marriage, it lies in anti-discrimination. That is what we focus on.”


Xiaoling Wu, senior policy officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, has a question about the role of the Netherlands and other countries in China’s LGBT issues: “What stance should we take as foreign countries,” Wu asks: “Should we support the local NGOs on these issues, or should we let China handle its own affairs?”

Geng Le stresses the importance of the international community – it should not stay aloof from these issues. Because of previously expressed critique on UN level, there already has been made progress within China on gay issues: “The government has showed that it is willing to accept criticism on its LGBT policies. There was also good news today that the homophobia law in Uganda has been changed. The international community also played a crucial role in this.”


Van de Weerd explains that it has also taken the Netherlands a long time to accept homosexuality and to make big steps in anti-discrimination, which is still a work in progress. Therefore, Van de Weerd emphasizes, it is important to realize that the road to equality and acceptance does take time and comes in little steps.

Wang Chong says that Chinese mass media also plays an important role in increasing acceptance of homosexuality and LGBT groups. “Unfortunately,” Wang says: “In China, when a man eats a dog, it becomes news, but when the dog eats the man, it’s not.” Wang mentions how important issues such as the air pollution and environment protection are neglected in the media; it will take time before the mass media start paying serious attention to LGBT issues.


Weibo has contributed to the social acceptance of homosexuals amongst young people. 


An attendee from China reacts from the audience. She wants to emphasize that she feels that homosexuality is actually widely accepted amongst young Chinese people. This is something that becomes clear through Weibo and the topics younger generations commonly talk about. Homosexuals are considered ‘fashionable’ and ‘stylish’ and there are positive associations with gay couples. Weibo has contributed to this, she says, as there are bloggers who talk about their everyday lives with their same-sex partner. These blogs have become extremely popular.


However, Geng Le still sees a long road ahead. China’s LGBT NGOs are not fully professionalized yet- many are not even registered as such. But Geng Le does not think about giving up on the promotion of gay equality in China. “Even if the government shuts down our website,” he says: “we’ll still find ways to publish our content elsewhere.”


Li Yinhe talks about the importance of marriage in Chinese traditional culture. Not only is marrying considered crucial, not bringing forth children is almost considered a crime. Not settling down and starting a family is a disgrace to your parents – this brings great pressure to homosexuals.


An attendee brings up the subject of lesbians: “We have been talking a lot about gays, and have not mentioned lesbians, how is the status on that issue?” Danlan founder Geng Le jokingly remarks that he doesn’t know, as there are not a lot of women in his life. On a more serious note, he says that he does get criticized for not paying enough attention to lesbian issues. There will, therefore, be a site launch focused on lesbians. Geng does stress that there are already a lot of activist groups focused on homosexual women.


Li Yunhe adds that there is extra difficulty for lesbians who live in rural areas. If you do not marry and conceive children, people will consider these women to be ‘freaks’. There are cases of women who commit suicide as a consequence. There is still a lot to be done on the issue.


“We have run out of time,” Van Pinxteren concludes. Of course, there is still one thing left to say: “Enjoy Gay Pride Amsterdam!”

This live blog is now closed.


Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?

Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”




What are Weibo’s “Super Topics” (超级话题) and what makes them different from normal hashtags?

Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.

Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.

These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:


#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.

Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.

A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).

On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.

A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.


#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content

Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.

A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.

One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.

Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.


#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather

Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.

Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.

The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.

Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).

What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.


By Manya KoetseGabi Verberg, with contributions from Boyu Xiao

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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Why Trump Has Two Different Names in Chinese

Why does ‘Trump’ have multiple names in Chinese?




First published , updated version published March 7, 2019

It is confusing even for Chinese netizens and journalists: why does Donald Trump have multiple names in Chinese? And which is the right one to use? What’s on Weibo explains.

Donald Trump has two most commonly used different names in Chinese. In Mandarin*, they are Tèlǎngpǔ (特朗普) and Chuānpǔ (川普). Both names have been used by Chinese mainstream media and netizens for years.

*(Due to the scope of this article, we’ll just use the Mandarin pinyin here.)

In the Chinese translation of Donald Trump’s autobiography The Art of the Deal (1987), the ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ transliteration is used, whereas the translation of the George Ross book Trump-Style Negotiations (2008) uses ‘Chuānpǔ’ as the Chinese name for Trump.

Considering that Trump is making headlines every day, more people are wondering why Trump has two Chinese names, and which one is the correct name to use. There are even discussions about the topic on Chinese social media.


Why are foreign names translated?


Why are non-Chinese names actually translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being such vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and script, the majority of Chinese people will find it hard to pronounce a foreign name that is written in English.

Writing foreign names or terms in Chinese script has a long history and practical reasons which won’t be further elaborated on here. At present, aside from being standardized, it does not just help Chinese speakers to pronounce these words, it also makes it easier to remember them. Most Chinese names usually consist of two or three characters; the first character is the surname, and the last character(s) is the given name.

Translating a name to better adapt to the culture in which it is used does not only happen with English names in China; you often see the same happening with Chinese names in foreign countries.

In that case, the first character (surname) is moved to the back, and the given name changed into an English one. Alibaba’s Ma Yun, for example, has become globally known as ‘Jack Ma.’ Film star Zhao Wei is called ‘Vicky Zhao’, Tencent’s Ma Huateng is known as ‘Pony Ma,’ and the popular actress Lin Yun is called ‘Jelly Lin.’


The right way to translate a foreign name in Chinese


There are multiple ways to translate a foreign name to Chinese. Most commonly, a name is translated into Chinese characters that are phonetically similar to the original name, without necessarily being very meaningful. The transliteration of ‘Hillary’ (Clinton), for example, is ‘Xīlālǐ’ (希拉里). ‘Bush’ is translated as ‘Bùshí’ (布什).

Another option is to choose a name purely based on meaning rather than phonetics. One example is Elvis Presley, who is called ‘Cat King’ (Māo Wáng 猫王) in Chinese, which stays close to his nickname “The Hillbilly Cat.”

The best option when translating a foreign name into Chinese, however, is to make sure it stays close to its original pronunciation while also using elegant characters. In other words; it is nice when a name’s translation makes sense both phonetically and semantically. Marilyn Monroe’s last name in Chinese is Mènglù (梦露), for example, which sounds like ‘Monroe’ and has the characters for ‘Dream Dew’ – a perfect transliteration for such a dreamy actress.

Even when the characters used for a foreign name in Chinese are not necessarily intended to convey a certain meaning, it is important that they do not have any negative connotations. Nobody wants a character in their name associated with divorce, disease or death – it is believed to bring bad luck.

Another thing is that it is considered helpful for foreign names in Chinese is to maintain a ‘foreign flavor’ to it, to make it clear that the name is actually a transliteration. To give an example raised in this Nikkei article: President Reagan’s name is generally translated as Lǐgēn 里根 in Chinese – the characters being somewhat uncommon for a Chinese name.

The same name could also be written with the characters 李根, very common for a Chinese name, but then it would be difficult to know whether a media report is talking about Reagan the President or just a local Chinese person by the same name. Transliterations of foreign names, therefore, are often easily recognizable as foreign names on purpose.


Trump, Tèlǎngpǔ, and Chuānpǔ


In the case of Trump, his Chinese names are mainly chosen for phonetic reasons, with different sources using different characters. Part of the challenge in deciding the right Chinese translation for his name, is the fact that Chinese does not have consonant cluster ‘tr’ as one sound.

The Chinese-language Nikkei newspaper dedicated an op-ed written by Chinese scholar Ke Long (柯隆) to the matter, who argues that although it may all seem trivial, it is actually quite confusing and unpractical for president Trump to have more than one name in Chinese.

The Chinese media in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and most overseas Chinese-language media, refer to Trump as ‘Chuānpǔ’ (川普).* According to the World Journal, the biggest Chinese-language newspaper in the US, it is the only proper way to translate this name, yet most Chinese state media and Chinese-language UK media (such as BBC) all use ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’

* (The Chinese version of The New York Times 纽约时报中文版 is an exception, as ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 is generally also used in this publication.)

Author Ke Long explains that Chinese translations of foreign names try to stay as close as possible to the pronunciation of a name in its original language. This is why the name of the city ‘Paris’ is pronounced ‘Bālí’ (巴黎) in Mandarin Chinese, staying close to the French pronunciation, and ‘Amsterdam’ being ‘Āmǔsītèdān’ (阿姆斯特丹), which follows the city’s Dutch pronunciation.

If the British would pronounce ‘Trump’ as ‘te-lan-pu,’ then it would thus perhaps be more understandable why media such as the BBC would write Tèlǎngpǔ. But they don’t pronounce it like that, Ke Long argues, saying that the use of ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ thus does not make sense, and is actually closer to the Japanese way of writing Trump’s name (‘トランプ’: to-ra-n-pu).

More so, the author writes, it does not make sense for Chinese media to take over the British transliteration of the Trump name. Considering Trump is American, Chinese media should follow the translations made by American media. He also notes that if it would be about the Prime Minister of Britain, the Chinese transliteration should follow the one used by the media in the UK.

Although the Nikkei author seems to advocate for a singular use of ‘Chuānpǔ’ by all media, no Chinese media are necessarily ‘wrong’ in their transliteration of the name Trump. The ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 translation follows the example of outlets such as the BBC, while Chuānpǔ 川普 follows that of other media.

Some Chinese bloggers argue that Chuānpǔ 川普 is the best way to write Trump’s name, because the first character, that actually means ‘river,’ is commonly used in Chinese, making the name sound more ‘natural’ and easy to pronounce than ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’ Moreover, they argue that the Mandarin ‘chuan’ sound is more appropriate to convey the pronunciation of ‘tr’ than the ‘te-lang’ way.

In the end, the reason why Trump has two names most commonly used in Chinese is just a matter of media, with various mainstream outlets adopting different names since Trump first made headlines, and without there being any clear consensus on which Chinese name to use across all these different Chinese-language media platforms around the world.


Chuángpù and Chuángpò?


On Chinese social media, President Trump even has more than two names. There are also netizens referring to him as 床鋪, 闯破 or 床破 (Chuángpù/Chuángpò); these are all transliterations that contain strange or negative characters, making the name unrefined and harsh-sounding on purpose to make the name ‘Trump’ look and sound bad.

Although there have been online discussions on the right transliteration for the name Trump, it is unlikely that there will be one official Chinese name for the US President in the near future. Xinhua News, China’s official state-run press agency, has consistently been using Tèlǎngpǔ 特朗普 for years, and will probably continue to use it.

Many netizens simply use both versions of his name in one post to avoid confusion, and some news reports have even started using both names in its headlines (image below).

Despite the somewhat confusing situation at hand, there are also those who do not seem to mind at all. “Who cares if it is Tèlǎngpǔ or Chuānpǔ anyway?” one netizen says: “In this day and age, we all know who it is we are talking about.”

– By Manya Koetse
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This article first appeared in 2017 and has been republished with various corrections:
– The first version did not properly convey the argument made by author Ke Long in his Nikkei piece, which is more clearly laid out in this version.
– This version has added some extra information coming from sources after 2017.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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