Lesbians in China have set up an online petition to be allowed to donate blood.

According to state-run China Daily, the petition asks the government to repeal the 1998 ban.

The law means that anyone who states they are gay or lesbian on a blood donation form is automatically disqualified from donating. However, the is no penalty for lying on the forms.

So far, the petition has 540 signatures. Organisers are hoping the number will reach 1,000.

Shi Weiwei, deputy director of the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center, said that the law stemmed for safety concerns.

“As we all know, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including the deadly HIV/AIDS, is much higher among groups such as drug users and homosexuals, particularly gay men, who tend to have multiple sex partners,” she said.

China Daily estimated that there are 30 million gays and lesbians in the country out of 1.3 billion people. It did not say how many of these are thought to have HIV.

Many gay and lesbian websites are blocked in China, although it was recently found that new software designed to filter out pornography also blocks images of pigs, as it mistakes the image for naked human skin.