Chinese tech giant Tencent deleted dozens of university students’ LGBT social media accounts, citing violations of rules around information on the internet Wednesday.
The students allege that access to their WeChat accounts was blocked on Tuesday, and they discovered all of the content on their accounts had disappeared on Wednesday. In place of these accounts was a notice from WeChat that stated they “had violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese internet.”
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price expressed concern that China has censored “accounts of LGBTQI Plus student groups and NGOs that were merely expressing their views, exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech.” International rights group OutRight Action International asserts the government of the People’s Republic of China “has increasingly clamped down on its citizens’ human rights more broadly, particularly restricting freedom of expression, assembly, and the press.” The group claims that organisations and activists “have also faced intimidation and violence by security services.” The group points to China’s strong emphasis on traditional cultural values and norms around “family units” and freely-operating “conversion clinics” offering sexual orientation and gender identity “conversion therapy” and other treatments.
While LGBTIQ relationships are no longer illegal in China, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China is silent on the matter human rights based on sexual orientation. Article 49 frames marriage as a union between “husband and wife,” and details duties and protections of rights within marriage and family in hetero-nomative language. The deletion of these social media accounts animates fears of a government crackdown that potentially violates rights of the Chinese LGBT community.