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LGBTQ in China lament ‘dark day’ after social media crackdown – Al Jazeera English

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Chengdu, China – A week ago without warning, WeChat, a popular social media platform in China, permanently suspended the official accounts of more than a dozen college LGBTQ groups, igniting a new round of debate on the country’s already threatened community.

The suspensions largely affected groups almost entirely run by students, including at prestigious academic institutions such as Tsinghua and Peking universities. The groups’ missions, according to their brief introductions, were “advancing gender equality and sexual minorities’ rights.”

Several students who run the LGBTQ group accounts told Al Jazeera that they had not previously received any warnings from the relevant authorities about any possible suspension.

Mary, a student who was involved in one of the suspended groups, says that while there had been “chatter” on campus on regulating “groups that advocate for sexual minorities’ rights” for a few months before, nothing had materialised.

“It came as a surprise, but at the same time, not so much,” said Mary, who preferred not to use her real name for security reasons. “We knew the LGBT rights movement was hitting obstacles one after another in China, but we thought at least by being university-affiliated, we could be exempt from any overt crackdown.”

Like Mary, everyone else who spoke Al Jazeera did so on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity surrounding LGBTQ issues.

These accounts now carry the tag “unnamed official account,” with a single message appearing beneath – “all content has been censored for the account’s violation of ‘internet official account information service management regulations.’” All the articles previously published on the platforms, mostly on gender issues and LGBTQ rights, have disappeared.

As in previous crackdowns in China, any effort to try and document the move was soon snuffed out, too. Some accounts were suspended simply for compiling a list of the accounts that had been deleted.

Neither the government nor Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, has given an explanation for the suspension.

People at groups that escaped the crackdown told Al Jazeera they were preparing for the worst.

One worker at a prominent LGBTQ group said he had started making copies of all articles published on their platform, currently numbering more than 1,000. Another went on Taobao, China’s e-commerce platform and paid someone to download all the articles, with topics ranging from health to political rights advocacy, on a number of accounts that she feared could be officials’ next targets.

Student-led accounts for the LGBTQ community were erased from China’s online platforms overnight on July 7 [File: How Hwee Young/EPA]

For now, it is only the groups’ online presence that has been smothered but many groups are concerned that authorities could be preparing for a broader crackdown on campus events and activities by LGBTQ groups. People such as Mary say they are working hard to ensure “other activities go on as scheduled.”

“This is a dark day for us, and I don’t know if there’s anything I could do other than reaching out to my friends and comforting them,” Kevin, a gay man in Chengdu, told Al Jazeera, after hearing the news.

The online crackdown on the community caused an outcry on China’s social media.

Many voiced their support for the groups, even as they worried about the further encroachment into civil society.

“After years of having worked at this organisation and seeing my colleagues being interrogated, censored, forced to delete articles, I will never forgive this [country],” said a person who worked at another group that had fallen victim to the censorship.

Some others expressed their concern about the all-encompassing state censorship machine.

“What I fear most about this place is its ability to wipe out something just by snapping its finger,” wrote one user on Douban, another Chinese social media platform. “The something being a person, a group of people, an organisation, or even an ethnic group.”

Low-key Pride

Chinese government’s attitude towards the LGBTQ community shifts frequently. From time to time, the government has equated homosexuality with violence and obscenity, censored depictions on television and allowed books to refer to homosexuality as a kind of mental illness. However, at the same time, the government’s attitude towards the community is not always overtly hostile and Beijing has, by and large, left the community alone.

Since 2009, Shanghai has been marking Pride Month, which normally falls in June in most countries, with film screenings and public talks, although without the parade that is central to the celebrations elsewhere. Last year, the organisers were forced to halt the celebration due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But not everyone is supportive of the community.

The online crackdown singled out student groups at universities including the prestigious Peking University [File: Roman Pilipey/EPA]

There are many who fully endorse the government’s crackdown. Some people with big followings on Weibo are quite content with, if not ecstatic about, the latest development. “So glad that the government is finally taking some action on the LGBT organisations,” wrote Ziwuxiashi, a Weibo account with more than 500,000 followers. “The grief from [the supporters of the community] is our song of triumph!”

China’s more conservative forces have often exhibited a vehement hatred towards homosexuality or gender nonconformity for an alleged “agenda to destroy traditional values,” according to some vocal opponents of the movement, including some that brand themselves as science writers such as Vaccine and Science, an account with more than five million followers.

There remains no legal recognition of same-sex relationships or marriage but as people have become more socially liberal in recent years, those hostile to the LGBTQ community have shifted away from their “traditional values” argument.

A sampling of conversations happening on- and offline makes clear that another viewpoint is gaining traction: a suspicion that the LGBTQ community, especially on college campuses, is the pawn of a so-called “foreign hostile force” that could disrupt Chinese society and therefore needs to be carefully regulated.

“To target these groups is a good move because these students have learned so many bad things from foreign powers and are becoming their agents,” one user commented on Weibo.

‘Go-to tactic’

In recent years, the idea that feminism and LGBTQ equality are all products of Western ideology and their mere existence in China will destroy society has been widely shared, and as Beijing warms to the idea of assigning domestic discontent to meddling by foreign powers, their voices are being amplified.

“To advocate for equality is to stage colour revolution, to support feminism is the infiltration of Hong Kong independence movement, and to be pro-LGBT community is to receive monetary support from [US President Joe] Biden,” Wu, an organiser for an LGBTQ rights advocacy group in Shanghai, told Al Jazeera, describing some of the accusations levelled at them. “To label ordinary people with political marks, and then persecute them – that’s [the government’s] go-to tactic.”

Since Xi Jinping became president in 2012, political power has become even more centralised and the Communist Party increasingly sensitive to groups and organisations – from religion to culture and community – that could potentially pose as threats to its grip.

Despite the crackdown, people in the LGBTQ community retain a sense of optimism. ‘Love and hope are not that easy to take away,” they said [File: How Hwee Young/EPA]

A report on China’s LGBTIQ movement published this month by ILGA Asia, the regional arm of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, found “limited visibility of LGBTIQ issues in social media and online activism is in a vulnerable state due to strict censorship by the authoritarian government.”

On social media, for example, instead of being called “couples” or “boyfriends,” same-sex partners are described as “roommates” to deliberately make the “gayness” less visible.

“This is [the government’s] implicit tactic of including homosexuality into the heteronormative narrative, thus ridding the LGBT group of their political voice,” wrote one WeChat user.

What awaits the group’s struggle for civil liberties in one of the world’s most tightly controlled countries remains uncertain. ILGA says that despite the “bleak scenario” there remain “opportunities” particularly in areas of violence and discrimination against the gay community and in legal rights advocacy.

And within the world’s largest LGBTQ community, people retain a sense of optimism.

“There are many things that could be stripped off of us, but love and hope – they are not that easy to be taken away,” said one person who works at an LGBTQ-focused NGO in Wuhan.

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Hollywood Enlists Asian Media in US-Led $71 Billion Piracy Fight – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Hollywood studios battling online piracy have enlisted the first Asian members of an industry coalition set up to seek out and shut down illegal streaming sites.

The Hong Kong-based streaming service Viu and True Visions, a leading Thai pay-TV provider, will be the first Asian companies to join the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, whose members include Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co. and other major media companies.

The alliance is part of the US Motion Picture Association and has 39 members, with plans to enlist other players in Latin America and elsewhere. Dues from the media organizations are used to finance legal fights against the theft of content.

Piracy has been on the rise during the pandemic, costing US entertainment companies an estimated $29 billion to $71 billion in lost revenue annually, according to executives at the organization. And media companies typically notice, and act on, copyright and intellectual property theft before police.

“We now have local partners fighting this local fight, who can connect to local law enforcement,” Charles Rivkin, chairman of the alliance and the Motion Picture Association, said in an interview. “It’s a whole lot more effective when you have a local player come in with the MPA than the MPA just parachuting in on our own and trying to make headway.”

Expanding Ranks

While the organization is mostly made of US companies, including all of the major Hollywood studios and streaming services that form the MPA trade group, it also has international partners. BBC Worldwide and Vivendi SE’s Canal+ are two of its biggest European members. Rivkin said he has long sought to expand the group’s footprint in Asia-Pacific, where some of the largest illegal streaming sites are run.

Viu is one of the biggest streaming platforms in Asia, with 58.6 million monthly active users, according to the company. True Visions is a cable and satellite TV operator based in Thailand, and last month helped the alliance and local police arrest an alleged content pirate and shut down his website.

“We recognize the need to address the piracy that is widespread in our markets,” Marianne Lee, chief of content acquisition and development at Viu, said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring consumers move from illegal piracy sites to legal options.”

While Hollywood has battled film and TV piracy for years, it became particularly problematic after major studios made their content more readily accessible online during pandemic lockdowns. John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in April piracy was so widespread in 2021 that studios scrapped plans to debut their big, new films online rather than in theaters.

The alliance says it’s also looking to partner with major sports leagues across the world, since they are also the target of digital content thieves. In April, ACE added beIN Media Group, one of the biggest international sports broadcasters, to its ranks.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Boston media explodes after Red Sox blow it without unvaccinated closer Houck – Sportsnet.ca

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Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 situation, in sports and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country’s public health website for the latest.

The Boston media is known for being tough on their teams at all times.

It reaches another level, though, when something like Tuesday night happens.

Because Boston Red Sox closer Tanner Houck is unvaccinated, he had to be placed on the restricted list prior to this week’s series in Toronto against the Blue Jays.

And wouldn’t you know it, his absence loomed large on Tuesday when the Blue Jays scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win over the Red Sox.

Longtime Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy and other members of the Boston media were quick to post their feelings on Twitter.

Without Houck, the Red Sox asked Tyler Danish, who pitched the eighth, to go back out for the ninth.

But Danish, who has zero career saves, let the first two runners on. That prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to replace him with Hansel Robles.

Robles wasn’t any more successful, giving up RBI singles to Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to end it.

When asked if the situation made him more frustrated about the vaccination situation, Cora said no.

“We go with the 26 that are here, and we try to get 27 outs and we didn’t do it,” Cora said.

The Blue Jays have now won five of six against the Red Sox in Toronto this season heading into Wednesday’s series finale when Toronto will start ace Alek Manoah.

And, maybe just maybe, the same two teams will play in the same venue in October.

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Media Release – June 29, 2022 – Guelph Police – Guelph Police Service

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Fake gun call doesn’t work

A male who reported a bogus firearms incident in an attempt to avoid being arrested instead faces additional charges.

Approximately 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Guelph Police Service officers located a stolen motorcycle in a downtown parking lot. Investigation led them to an apartment unit where they believed the responsible male was hiding.

While officers were on scene, a 911 call was received by the communications centre reporting a male with a firearm at a business on Eramosa Road. Several officers responded and determined the report was fake and intended to draw officers away from the downtown apartment.

After extensive negotiations, a male was arrested just before 9:30 p.m. A 38-year-old Guelph male is charged with possessing stolen property over $5,000, public mischief and failing to comply with a release order. He was held for a bail hearing Wednesday.

Male charged with impaired, mischief

A Guelph male was charged with mischief after smearing feces on a surveillance camera at the Guelph Police station following his arrest for impaired driving.

Just after 6 p.m Tuesday, the Guelph Police Service received reports of an erratic driver in the area of Woodlawn Road West and Imperial Road North. A short time later the running vehicle was located at the owner’s residence with the male still sitting inside. Officers detected an odour of alcoholic beverage on his breath and observed an empty beer can inside the vehicle. Testing at the police station confirmed the male had more than the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

While the male was being held awaiting his release, he began to cover a cellblock camera with a pillow. After the pillow was taken away he used his hand to smear feces on the camera lens.

A 47-year-old Guelph male is charged with impaired operation and mischief. His driver’s licence was suspended for 90 days and his vehicle was impounded for seven days. He will appear in a Guelph court July 12, 2022.

Male arrested for break and enter

A Guelph male has been arrested nearly two months after a north-end garage was entered.

On May 8, a resident in the area of Victoria Road North and Ingram Drive reported a break-in to his garage. Video surveillance showed a vehicle stopping in front of the house approximately 3:20 a.m. A male entered the garage and stole tools and other items.

A suspect was identified from the video and arrested Tuesday.

A 32-year-old Guelph male is charged with break and enter, prowl at night and breach of probation. He will appear in a Guelph bail court July 5, 2022.

Total calls for service in the last 24 hours – 240

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