On July 6, 2021, WeChat, a widely-used Chinese social media app, deleted accounts owned by LGBT+ student groups from at least 11 universities.
At around 10 PM local time on July 6, WeChat accounts owned and operated by registered LGBT+ student groups, such as Purple from Tsinghua University and Colorsworld from Peking University, in addition to several unofficial LGBT+ groups associated with universities, were taken down from the app and became inaccessible to members.
WeChat issued notifications to members of the online groups stating that content was blocked and the account had been deactivated. Some club members received notifications stating that an account had been deactivated after receiving complaints about the groups’ activities, while others received notifications stating that the account “violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese internet.”
According to students speaking anonymously, two months prior to the deletion of the WeChat profiles, officials at several universities warned LGBT+ student groups to shut down social media accounts and refrain from mentioning their university’s name in association with the group. It is unclear what actions, if any, the universities have taken following the accounts’ suspensions.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on students’ expression and association, targeting minority groups. University authorities have a responsibility to refrain from encroaching on the nonviolent, responsible exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, and to take available measures to protect students from such encroachments when they come from State or private entities. Attacks on the right to freedom of expression and association on campus targeting minority groups undermine academic freedom and related university values including equitable access.