A week ago without warning, WeChat, a popular social media platform in China, permanently suspended the official accounts of more than a dozen college LGBTQ groups, igniting a new round of debate on the country’s already threatened community.
The suspensions largely affected groups almost entirely run by students, including at prestigious academic institutions such as Tsinghua and Peking universities. The groups’ missions, according to their brief introductions, were “advancing gender equality and sexual minorities’ rights.”
Several students who run the LGBTQ group accounts told Al Jazeera that they had not previously received any warnings from the relevant authorities about any possible suspension.
Mary, a student who was involved in one of the suspended groups, says that while there had been “chatter” on campus on regulating “groups that advocate for sexual minorities’ rights” for a few months before, nothing had materialised.
“It came as a surprise, but at the same time, not so much,” said Mary, who preferred not to use her real name for security reasons. “We knew the LGBT rights movement was hitting obstacles one after another in China, but we thought at least by being university-affiliated, we could be exempt from any overt crackdown.”