A prominent LGBTQ+ rights group in China has shut down amid growing oppression in the nation.
LGBT Rights Advocacy China made the announcement Thursday and closed its accounts on the social media platforms Weibo and WeChat, the Associated Press reports. "We are deeply regretful to tell everyone, Queer Advocacy Online will stop all of our work indefinitely," the group posted on WeChat, Queer Advocacy Online being the name it uses for the account.
"We are grateful for all your companionship and support over the years," the organization added on WeChat. "Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. There may still be many uncertainties in the future, but we look forward to the day when the clouds have dispersed and we can see the blue sky again."
"The group stopped short of stating it was disbanding, though it did not offer a timeline for when operations would resume, or if its headquarters in the city of Guangzhou would remain open," the South China Morning Post reports. Its Facebook page is still live.
It's unclear if the government was involved in the shutdown, although the Ministry of Civil Affairs announced Friday that it had taken action against thousands of illegal social organizations and hundreds of websites and social media accounts, according to the AP.
In any case, the atmosphere in China is becoming increasingly repressive, even though many major cities still have vibrant LGBTQ+ scenes, and the nation decriminalized homosexuality in 1997. In July, WeChat moderators shut down several LGBTQ+ accounts run by university students and groups. "Authorities have been tightening the space available for LGBT advocacy and civil society generally," Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center, told Reuters at the time.
And the Chinese government has been pushing the idea that LGBTQ+ identity is a Western concept. In September, regulators banned portrayals of so-called effeminate men from television. The National Radio and TV Administration told broadcasters that they must "resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics." The government also banned depictions of "gay love" in video games.
LGBT Rights Advocacy China was founded in 2013 by activists Peng Yanzi and AQiang. It has campaigned for recognition of same-sex relationships, but that has not come yet, and against conversion therapy. It has also brought several lawsuits for LGBTQ+ clients. "In the entire community, they gave us a lot of hope and guidance, giving everyone the confidence to go out there and do something," a man who won a job discrimination suit with the group's assistance told the AP.