Gay websites closed due to pressure

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More than 10 gay websites in China have been recently forced to close or had their accounts deleted by their server hosting companies, an NGO said yesterday.

"Some of the hosting service providers even told us that gay chatting was illegal," said Geng Le, the webmaster of a gay website in Beijing.

The Chinese Association of HIV/AIDS NGOs, which was founded by 165 NGOs in China, made the statement on Wednesday. It also said they would provide free legal aid to those webmasters.

"More than 20 lawyers in our institute can provide legal aid to those webmasters for free. If the case does not happen in Beijing, we can transfer it to other NGOs," said Lan Yujiao, an official in Aizhixing Institute, an NGO for protecting the legal rights of special groups in Beijing.

Lan said free legal aid is not only available for gay webmasters, but also HIV/AIDS carriers and special groups who are discriminated in their daily lives.

"We have provided free legal aid to three webmasters in China this year, one of which was in Beijing," Lan said.

A webmaster surnamed Chen, whose gay website in Beijing was been closed by a web hosting company, said the company had told him gay websites might hold immoral information and pornographic literature.

"I would bet that most gay websites are more 'clean and healthy' than websites not closed by the government," he said.

"As a gay webmaster, we are more careful about all the information on the website, because we want to remove the prejudice on the gay group. We want to let them know we are healthy."

Yesterday was his website's 10th anniversary. He said he originally planned to celebrate the day. But now, he just worries about how long the website can exist.

According to Geng, some webmasters of gay websites have been forced to host their websites on foreign servers.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health in 2004 showed the total number of gay men in China was estimated at between 5 and 10 million.

Hao Yang, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau, said on Wednesday that HIV/AIDS transmission among gay men was more severe in recent years.

According to the latest research done by the bureau that looked at 50,000 gay men in 61 cities, 5 percent of the total numbers were HIV/AIDS carriers.

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