China’s most popular social media service has removed accounts on LGBT issues run by university students and non-government groups.
The removal has caused worry that the ruling Communist Party is increasing its control over some sexual content. LGBT means lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
The founder of an LGBT group said WeChat told the account holders that they had violated rules. But the social media service gave no details. The founder asked the Associated Press not to identify her out of fear of possible official retaliation. She said many accounts were shut down late on Tuesday. And WeChat removed everything, including personal stories and photos of group events.
Tencent Holding, which operates WeChat did not answer an AP email asking for comment.
It was not clear whether the action was ordered by Chinese officials. It comes as the ruling party tightens political controls and tries to silence groups that might criticize its rule.
The Communist Party decriminalized homosexuality in 1997. But LGBT and other sexual minorities still face discrimination. While there is some more public discussion of such issues, some LGBT activities have been banned by officials.
Two years ago, China’s legislature received suggestions from the public about legalizing same-sex marriage, reports the official Xinhua News Agency. However, it did not say if legislators would take action.
The government position is increasingly against LGBT issues, the founder of the LGBT group said.
The former operator of a different LGBT group for university students said the move was a bad sign. The former operator also asked not to be identified.
University officials asked students two months ago to close LGBT social media groups or to avoid mentioning their school names, said the LGBT group founder. She said universities in the eastern province of Jiangsu were told by officials to investigate groups for women’s rights and sexual minorities to keep “stability.”
Research suggests there are about 70 million LGBT people in China, or about 5 percent of the population, reports state media.
One important LBGT group, Shanghai Pride, canceled events last year. It also canceled future public events without explanation after 11 years of operation.
More official control over internet companies
On Wednesday, Chinese officials also moved to tighten control over the country’s fast-developing internet industry. The government announced fines in 22 cases against companies including Alibaba and Tencent Holding for improperly expanding the market power.
In April, Alibaba was fined $2.8 billion for suppressing competition. Over the weekend, ride-sharing service Didi was ordered to change its handling of users’ information.
Chinese leaders worry that the companies are expanding into finance, health services, and other businesses. And the ruling Communist Party has said it will center on anti-monopoly enforcement in technology this year.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
account – n. a company's record of the products or services used by a customer and of the money that the customer owes or has paid to the company
retaliation – n. to do something bad to someone who has hurt you or treated you badly
decriminalize – v. to make (something that is illegal) legal by changing the law
fine – n. an amount of money that you pay as a punishment for breaking a law or rule
monopoly – n. complete control of the entire supply of goods or of a service in a certain area or market
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