China’s largest e-commerce site, Taobao, began removing LGBTI-themed items from online stores this week.
Taobao, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, told Vendors selling products such as rainbow clothing and accessories that ‘erotic, violent and vulgar content’ was not allowed.
It told Hu Nao, a 27-year-old from ShanDong who sells handmade rainbow accessories, the company prohibited items described as ‘LGBT’ ‘Les’ and ‘Gay’.
They claimed her products contained ‘obscenity, pornography, violence or political sensitivity’.
‘I am only selling some accessories to give us [LGBT] some identity’ she told Gay Star News. ‘Why can’t I do that?’ she asked.
This week, China’s largest social media, Sina Weibo, also removed LGBTI content.
A page dedicated named ‘les’ and dedicated to lesbian users disappeared on Sunday (14 April).
It had 143,000 members and 540 million engagements. A lesbian group, meanwhile, is no longer accepting new members.
It comes almost exactly a year since Weibo first cracked down on LGBTI content.
The Cyberspace Administration of China on 10 April announced an 8-month crackdown on pornography.
It said any ‘content that violates correct marriage and family ethics’ should be removed.
Fan Fan of LGBT Rights Advocacy China told Gay Star News many people suspected the Weibo and Taobao crackdowns were linked.
He said he was ‘disappointed’ by the crackdown from two of China’s internet giants.
‘Taobao once was an LGBT-friendly company in its early years’ he told Gay Star News.
‘Maybe it also succumbed to the government’s policies before it remove these products’ he suggested.
China legalized gay sex in 1997 and removed it from the list of mental illnesses in 2001.
But, in a conservative and family-orientated society, many LGBTI Chinese live in the closet. Same-sex marriage is also illegal.
China’s Netcasting Service Association (CNSA) officially banned LGBT content from China’s internet in June 2017.
CNSA labeled homosexuality ‘abnormal sexual behavior’.