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China Bans Online Portrayals of Homosexuality, Raising Questions for Artists

Fiona Keating of The Independent reports that the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) announced new rules on July 1 demanding that all portrayals of homosexuality, drug addiction, and prostitution online be removed. The organization is requesting that internet video platforms hire at least three “professional censors” to tackle these “abnormal” representations and remove any programming that does not adhere to the CNSA’s new set of “correct political and aesthetic standards.” Those who choose not to heed the new guidelines could be reported to the authorities for further investigation.

Li Yinhe, a famous LGBT rights activist, sexologist, and sociologist in China, said via Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website, “First of all, from the perspective of an artist, very few countries in this world set up a censorship system that violates its citizens’ freedom to create arts. Second, it also violates the rights of sexual minorities to express their sexual preference.”

In 2016, the human rights organization Freedom House called China the “worst abuser of internet freedom” on the planet. The country’s record on LGBT rights is staggeringly poor: Homosexuality was taken off the list of official mental illnesses in 2001, only four years after it was officially decriminalized. Last year the Chinese government mandated that all representations of queerness be taken off of television. In a statement, the government said “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”

The new ban targeting such content comes close on the heels of a recent law requiring companies to prohibit anonymity online and monitor employees’ activities on the internet.