On June 30, the Chinese government banned LGBT content from the internet. The new regulation, enforced by the China Netcasting Services Association, censors any online content — including video and audio content — that displays “abnormal sexual behaviors,” including homosexuality.
Other content that will be edited or banned outright includes anything that promotes “luxurious lifestyles” or “obscenity.”
Many are viewing the new regulation as simply the latest attempt by the Chinese government to tighten its grip on the internet. China has never had a great track record when it comes to free speech, but in May the nation overhauled its internet regulations, instituting burdensome restrictions on news and media outlets. Websites, blogs and instant messaging tools must all now obtain licenses from the government to operate.
But this is also yet another attempt by China to clamp down on LGBTs.
Chinese LGBT magazine Gay Voice commented on the new regulation by saying, “The false information in these regulations has already caused harm to the Chinese LGBT community, who are already subjected to prejudice and discrimination.”
One month ago, an LGBT conference in the city of Xi’an was canceled when organizers — the gay rights group Speak Out — were told by police that gay people were not welcome in the city. At least 400 people were expected to attend the conference, which aimed to discuss discrimination against the LGBT community in China. Instead, nine activists were hauled away by law enforcement and detained for eight hours, told that “LGBT events can not be held again in Xi’an” and “Xi’an does not welcome LGBT events.”
Two gay apps in China have been shut down in the past few months. The first, Zank, operated for four years before it ceased to exist in April. The app claimed China’s internet regulator found it guilty of broadcasting pornographic content. In May, Rela, a Chinese dating app meant for lesbians, was shut down, along with its website and social media account. That app, though, says it will return.
In June, the latest Ridley Scott film, Alien: Covenant, saw its China premiere, but the film shown was missing one particular moment: the “gay kiss” (it’s actually between actor Michael Fassbender and himself) that occurs near the film’s end. “You can really feel something is missing where the gay kiss is supposed to be,” a Chinese advertising assistant told The Hollywood Reporter.
In 2005, China famously denied release of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Interestingly, the ‘gay moment’ in this year’s Beauty and the Beast live-action remake — widely covered by the media — was kept in that film’s China release, despite getting the film banned outright in Malaysia and resulting in a restrictive rating in Russia. In fact, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, The People’s Daily, seemed to use the fact that the moment was kept in to tout its “tolerance” of LGBT issues.
Which itself is a great example of China’s current crisis of personality when it comes to LGBTs.
Forbes reports that business aimed at Chinese LGBTs brings in tens of millions of customers, and China is the world’s third largest LGBT market (after Europe and the United States), worth $300 billion. But Forbes also glosses over the fact that the country’s Communist government actively attempts to stamp out LGBT culture.
“China’s Communist government doesn’t encourage LGBT causes or much other social activism,” a June Forbes editorial states, which is perhaps the understatement of the century. “Yet China lacks strong organized religion, so the LGBT community is tacitly accepted as long [as] it [doesn’t] stand in the way of authority or topple the hopes of any conservative elders worried about having grandchildren to carry on the family line.”
Such a view of China and its treatment of LGBTQ issues is deceptively simple, as the country’s new regulations against queer content, the disappearance of LGBT apps and movie censorship illustrate.
A story by Newsweek that ran last week claims China is “the worst place in the world for LGBTs to live,” according to survey results. While that may be a bit far-fetched — Chechnya is, after all, attempting a large-scale eradication of gay people as has never been seen — Chinese residents were quick to speak up about the difficulty of being openly gay in the nation. They cited a failure of acceptance by both the government and their families.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey indicated that only 21% of the Chinese population was in favor of homosexuality, and “conversion therapy” is still very much a thing in China.
In June, the island nation of Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, a moment that was met with rejoicing from LGBTs and queer organizations worldwide. Seeing something along those lines take place on the Chinese mainland, though — don’t hold your breath.
If the nation’s recent enhancement of anti-LGBT internet regulations show us anything, it’s that the nation is officially moving in the opposite direction.
Featured image by iPandastudio via iStockBeauty and the Beast Chechnya China