WeChat has deleted dozens of accounts associated with LGBTQ+ university students and groups in China, prompting fears that the government is tightening control over LGBTQ+ content.
The accounts were deleted late Tuesday night, the AP reports, with some users receiving notification that they had violated WeChat regulations. However, the users were not provided with specific details of what they were in violation of.
“They censored us without warning,” one user told Reuters. “All of us have been wiped out.”
Whether WeChat, which is one China’s most popular social media platforms, was acting on orders from the government remains unknown. However, LGBTQ+ groups, including those operating at universities, have come under increasing scrutiny from the government in recent years.
Reuters reports that in May, the topic of LGBTQ+ student loyalty to the ruling Communist Party came up in a meeting between students and party officials. The LGBTQ+ groups were dismantled soon after the meeting.
One organizer told CNN that she has seen LGBTQ+ groups on campuses cut back on the types of activities they run, limiting these to small social gatherings. “In recent years, our goal is simply to survive, to continue to be able to serve LGBT students and provide them with warmth,” she said. “We basically don’t engage in any radical advocating anymore.”
Last year, Shanghai Pride, which had operated for 11 years, abruptly shut down, leading to speculation that the organization had come under increasing pressure from the government.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997 and was declassified as a mental disorder in 2001. However, sexual minorities still face discrimination.
WeChat has yet to comment regarding its decision to delete the accounts.