The massively popular social media platform WeChat from Chinese tech company Tencent deleted a number of LGBTQ+-focused accounts earlier this week that were run by Chinese university students. The move has sparked concerns over a crackdown on LGBTQ+ online content.
The accounts had offered support for students and had advocated for LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality.
Several LGBTQ+ groups said the access to their group’s WeChat accounts had been blocked on Tuesday. They then found out all of their content on the account had been deleted, according to Reuters.
“Many of us suffered at the same time,” an account manager for one of the groups told the news wire. “They censored us without any warning. All of us have been wiped out.”
Besides being locked out and their content deleted, the accounts also had their names erased.
“After receiving relevant complaints, all content has been blocked and the account has been suspended,” the notice said, reported the BBC.
“Our activities will not stop due to the closure. On the contrary, we hope to use this opportunity to start again with a continued focus on gender and society, and to embrace courage and love,” Fudan University's Zhihe Society said.
Other groups affected came from Peking University and Tsinghua University.
“Authorities have been tightening the space available for LGBT advocacy and civil society generally. This is another turning of the screw,” Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai's China Center, who researches LGBTQ rights and gender equality, told Reuters.
The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and, in 2001, China took homosexuality off its list of mental conditions. However, same-sex marriage is not legal and many LGBTQ+ people report facing discrimination.