Chinese popular social networking platform Weibo announced that they would remove gay-themed contents from its platform (in Chinese), prompting a storm of online protests.
While content with extreme violence has become prime target for the website, gay content too is taking a fall in a country which otherwise has not banned homosexuality.
On Friday, Sina Weibo - a microblogging platform with almost 400 million active users, often described as China's Twitter - announced a "clean-up campaign" that would be removing "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence, or (related to) homosexuality".
Bowing to a wave of popular backlash, Chinese social media giant Sina Weibo has reversed a briefly instated ban on gay content. While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organizer, Lucas Chen, said Weibo's announcement gave it "added significance". And Weibo is looking to leave no stone unturned in ensuring content adhere to their rules and policies even though many suspect it is on the directions of a political leadership looking for even more control on the micro-blogging site. The crackdown was aimed at creating a "clear and harmonious" community in accordance with China's new cybersecurity law, the site said, with more than 100 accounts and 56,000 posts touching on the banned themes removed so far. "While they advocate for their rights, they also must bear their social responsibilities". "We must pressure these companies and show them it's not easy to discriminate against an entire community - no matter who orders them to do it".
Along with the hashtags, various images of rainbows were also uploaded to express support for the LGBT community. A rallying cry by users saw the hashtag "I am gay" also blocked by Chinese internet censors.
By around noon on Saturday, the hashtag #Iamgay had been used by roughly 170,000 people before being reportedly banned, according to Agence France-Presse.
China had decriminalized homosexuality way back in 1997 and declassified it as a mental illness in 2001 but the government authorities are still curbing the practice of the same in many ways.
"There can be no homosexuality under socialism?" a Weibo user wrote, according to AFP.
In an interview with CNN, Hua Zile, founder of a Weibo page focused on gay rights that was told it would be shut down, said he felt "totally surprised and touched" by the new announcement. "Gay people who would not have spoken out years ago are now letting their voices be heard". "It's awesome to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".