China Shuts Down ‘Gender and Sexuality Center’ as Government Ramps Up Censorship

VCG/Getty Images
VCG/Getty Images

China forced a non-profit dedicated to fighting sexual violence and promoting gender equality to close its doors this week, reportedly the conclusion of a harassment campaign by the government.

In a post on its official WeChat account, the Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Centre (GSEC) reportedly confirmed it would be permanently shutting its doors, and that all remaining donations would be used to help victims of sexual violence, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

“The Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Center has ceased operations effective December 6, 2018,” they wrote. “This account will no longer publish articles starting today. The remaining tips and donations received by this WeChat account will be used for assisting victims of sexual violence. We are grateful for your support and encouragement regarding our anti-sexual harassment work in the past few years.”

“We’re sad too, but winter has arrived,” the center responded to disappointed followers on the service. “We still have a long road ahead of us, we hope we will meet again.”

According to a source who spoke with the Post, “some of the staff were contacted by the authorities and received a threat they felt was serious, so they decided they had to stop what they were doing.”

GSEC was founded in 2016 by Wei Tingting, one of the “Feminist Five” group of women’s rights activists arrested in 2015 on charges of “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance.” The five women irked authorities as they planned to distribute posters and stickers protesting domestic violence on International Women’s Day.

In its stated mission, the GSEC sought to “advocate rights for and amplify voices from the socially disadvantaged groups who face discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, raise awareness on subjects including sexual assault, and drive changes in public policies to prevent sexual harassment and violence.”

The #MeToo movement that started in America last year did manage to catch on in China, with the surfacing of multiple sexual assault allegations in the country’s universities, media, and even amid Buddhist Monks. However, the movement has failed to garner support from Chinese officials, who see it as a threat to social stability.

One of their main tactics to play down the movement has been through the controlling of social media, with users forced to use phrases such as “rice bunny” to bypass the censorship. In March, one of the country’s most prominent feminist social media accounts, Feminist Voices, was shut down, while the GSEC’s recent Network Anti Sexual Harassment and Assault project was also censored as it attempted to collect data on sexual assault at universities.

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