Caixin
Feb 26, 2015 12:29 PM

Gov't Orders Documentary about Gays, Lesbians Removed from Net

(Beijing) – A regulator's recent decision to remove a Chinese documentary about mothers and their gay and lesbian children from websites providing video content has prompted a lawyer to question the government's power to limit content involving gay themes.

Mama Rainbow, which was directed by Fan Popo and released in 2012, discusses the experiences that six mothers had with their gay and lesbian offspring. The documentary had been on major online video sites such as youkou.com and 56.com since 2012 and was viewed more than 100,000 times.

Then in December the film and others involving gay and lesbian themes disappeared from major video sites.

Fan asked 56.com why his documentary was removed from the website and was told it "was deleted upon the requirement of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television," which regulates the media in China. The website refused to provide any documents related to the order, said Fan's lawyer, Wang Qinshi.

On February 12, Fan filed an application that sought to have the media watchdog "provide the legal basis for the decision." Rules for information disclosure mean the government must respond shortly after the major Spring Festival holiday, Wang said. The weeklong holiday that is also known as Chinese New Year ended on February 24.

A source close to the media watchdog said the online banning of Mama Rainbow and other films may be part of a campaign that started late last year to "clear vulgar content from the Internet."

The government has never published a regulation covering content involving gay themes.

"For a long time, China has treated sexual minorities as equal to illegal practices like prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking, and believes gay love is against social morality," Wang said. Discrimination against gay and lesbians "is common in China's law enforcement," he said.

Fan's request for the disclosure of information points to "the question of the boundary of regulatory power," Wang said. "The government can't implement law enforcement randomly."

Any regulation limiting a citizen's freedom and rights should be disclosed beforehand and be made transparent to the public, he said.

"Any censorship of cultural content should be clearly defined," Wang said. "It is like deleting online posts, which should follow clear regulations about what constitutes a violation."

Subjects related to gays and lesbians are sensitive in China, despite the fact the former Ministry of Health said in 2004 that the country had about 10 million gays and lesbians.

The UN Development Program said in an August report that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in China are not protected from discrimination by a law. The report cited a survey from a year earlier that found that more than two-thirds of some 3,490 people said they cannot accept gay people.

(Rewritten by Han Wei)

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