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WeChat in China shuts down LGBTQ-related accounts

Icon for smartphone app WeChat
Giant Chinese social media network WeChat’s smartphone icon.
(Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press)

China’s most popular social media service has deleted accounts on LGBTQ topics run by university students and non-governmental groups, prompting concern that the ruling Communist Party is tightening control over such content.

WeChat sent account holders a notice that they violated rules but gave no details, according to the founder of an LGBTQ group who asked not to be identified for fear of official retaliation. She said at least dozens of accounts were shut down, all at about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

It wasn’t clear whether the step was ordered by Chinese authorities, but it comes as the ruling party tightens political controls and tries to silence groups that might criticize its rule.

WeChat’s operator, Tencent Holding, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Communist Party decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other sexual minorities still face discrimination. There is more public discussion of such issues, but authorities have blocked some LGBTQ activities.

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The official attitude has grown increasingly strict on such matters, the founder of the LGBT group said.

The White House has dropped Trump-era executive orders to ban TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks.

Contents of the WeChat accounts, which included personal stories and photos of group events, were erased, she said.

The former operator of a different group for university students, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, called the step a devastating blow.

University officials asked students two months ago to shut down LGBTQ social media groups or to avoid mentioning their school names, according to the LGBTQ group founder. She said universities in the eastern province of Jiangsu were told by officials to investigate groups advocating on behalf of women’s rights and sexual minorities.


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