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Chinese lesbian dating site closed down as users fear government crackdown

Josh Jackman May 29, 2017
Hong Kong lgbt pride parade

A women takes part in the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) parade in Hong Kong on November 6, 2015. Hong Kong's streets were coloured by rainbow flags as protesters marched in the city's annual gay pride parade to call for equality and same-sex marriage. AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE (Photo credit should read Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese lesbian dating app with more than five million users has been shut down.

Rela’s website and main social media account were also taken offline at some point last week, according to Reuters.

The move quashes some of the optimism felt in the Chinese LGBT community after the highest court in Taiwan ordered its parliament to legalise same-sex marriage.

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said the ruling had “caused controversy”.

It also shows the current limits of progress in the country, after a Chinese tech company completed its buy-out of dating app Grindr last week.

Beijing Kunlun Tech finalised the acquisition after initially investing in the app, popular with gay and bisexual men around in the world, back in January 2016.

As well as its app and website, Rela has also had its page taken down from Weibo, a social media site with characteristics of Facebook and Twitter which around one-third of Chinese people use.

The page had around 200,000 fans, according to a cached version of the website.

Rela, first released in 2012, was temporarily suspended because of an “important adjustment in service,” the company told users on its WeChat app.

“Rela has always been with you and please await its return!” it added, without giving any details about why the service had been suspended.

Many users were convinced that the service had been shut down by the government, with one writing on Weibo: “This is discrimination against us lesbians.”

Another fan said: “Not being able to open it feels like being jilted.”

One Twitter user suggested that the app had been targeted because of its support on Weibo for the group of mothers of LGBT people who were kicked out of Shanghai’s famous “marriage market” after trying to find partners for their single children.

Rela posted a video in support of the group on its Weibo page last week.

Reuters has reported that Rela did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The country’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, also did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment today, though it is a national holiday.

In April, gay Chinese dating app Zank was shut down after around four years.

In a message on its Weibo account, which is still online, Zank said it had been accused by the internet regulator of broadcasting pornographic content and consequently closed down.

The Chinese government has in the past blocked sites like Facebook and Google for allegedly challenging the Community Party’s rule over the country or threatening stability.

Being gay in China was decriminalised in 1997, and declassified as a mental disorder by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry in 2001.

Last month, it was revealed that Chinese Communists won’t call each other ‘comrade’ anymore because of the word’s associations with gay people.

More: app, Asia, Asia, China, China, dating, Internet, lesbians, love, Sex, Taiwan, tech, Women

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