Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Closure of Chinese online feminist groups sparks anger

China says it seeks to empower women and protect their rights, but it does not tolerate discourse that it feels could agitate social order.

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Several Chinese feminist channels on Douban, a popular social networking forum in China, were abruptly shut this week, triggering online anger, and prompting calls for women to “stick together”.

Douban closed at least eight feminist channels, citing extremism, and radical political views and ideological content, women’s rights supporter Zhou Xiaoxuan wrote on social media.

“I firmly support my sisters on Douban, and oppose Douban’s cancellation of feminist channels,” said Zhou. She is well known in China for filing a sexual assault suit against a national TV anchor in 2018 and starting the country’s #MeToo movement.

The deleted Douban channels included groups with links to the so-called “6B4T” movement, a variant of feminism originating from South Korea that urges women to refrain from relationships with men, reject religion, and stop buying products such as corsets that they claim are hostile to the female gender.

Reuters on Wednesday found that the groups mentioned in Zhou’s post were no longer accessible on Douban, though other feminist channels and content still existed there.

Privately owned Douban did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The channel closures prompted social media users to create new Douban channels in hopes of resurrecting the groups, while the hashtag “women stick together” sprang up on China’s Twitter equivalent, Weibo, garnering almost 50 million views.

“We should stick together,” one Weibo user wrote. “Otherwise ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ will be our tomorrow.”

China says it seeks to empower women and protect their rights, but it does not tolerate activities and discourse – online or offline – that it feels could agitate social order or signify defiance to its authority.

In 2015, authorities arrested five activists, later dubbed the “Feminist Five”, who were planning to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport. They were released a month later.

New York-based feminist activist Lv Pin told Reuters, “Generally, online platforms conclude that the government dislikes feminism, so they tend to restrict it.”

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