China LGBTQ group shuts down in tightening environment

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An LGBTQ advocacy group in China that has spearheaded many of the country’s legal cases pushing for greater rights is halting its work for the foreseeable future.

LGBT Rights Advocacy China announced that it was ceasing all activities and shutting down its social media accounts in an announcement on social media Thursday.

“We are deeply regretful to tell everyone, Queer Advocacy Online will stop all of our work indefinitely,” the group said on WeChat, using the name of its social media account. It closed its accounts on WeChat and Weibo, two widely used platforms in China.

A member confirmed that all the group’s activities have been shut down. The member, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, declined to say why. Group founder Peng Yanzi did not respond to a request for comment.

LGBT Rights Advocacy China did work across the country, pushing for the rights of gay people and raising awareness about the community. It advocated for same-sex marriage and fought workplace discrimination by helping individuals sue their former employers.

The group helped a young woman sue textbook publishers for writing that homosexuality was a disorder. She lost the case in February, after years of litigation.

Homosexuality is not a crime in China, and in bigger cities, there’s a vibrant social scene where LGBTQ individuals can socialize without much fear or discrimination. However, restrictions on advocacy groups and online censorship has grown, those in the LGBTQ community say.

In July, WeChat shut down dozens of accounts run by university students and nonprofit groups on LGBTQ topics.

One LGBTQ blogger, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said it was getting increasingly difficult to run an LGBTQ group in the current environment, noting that WeChat and other social media platforms are deleting related content.

Shanghai Pride canceled its annual event in 2020 without explanation after 11 years of operation and said it would no longer hold it.

“The future may bring more uncertainties, we await the day when we can lift the clouds and see the daylight,” the group said in a post.

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