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How Does a Chinese Sex Expert Become a Free Speech Advocate?

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China Power

How Does a Chinese Sex Expert Become a Free Speech Advocate?

Under China’s increasingly harsh control on information, a Chinese female sexologist called on Chinese citizens to fight against censorship

How Does a Chinese Sex Expert Become a Free Speech Advocate?
Credit: Flickr/Brookings Institution

Li Yinhe, 65, China’s leading sociologist on sex and family as well as an activist for LGBT rights, has become a role model of courage and rationality for many Chinese netizens. Against China’s increasingly harsh control on information, Li has been constantly calling on all Chinese citizens to fight against censorship with moderate and rational argument.

As The Diplomat reported, the Chinese government’s clampdown on internet activities has become increasingly harsh. Particularly in recent months, a large number of online accounts have been deactivated by hidden online censors for unknown reasons. WeChat and Weibo are the two most scrutinized social media platforms.

Faced with such grim atmosphere online, most Chinese intellectuals choose to stay silent. Against the odds, Li surprisingly published a long article on her personal Weibo account on July 9 criticizing China’s censorship and calling for its abolition.

In her nearly 2000-word article under the title of “Why should we completely abolish censorship,” Li argued that the censorship of books, newspapers, online contents, films and television programs is against the Chinese Constitution and is one of the most critical problems in today’s society.

She continued her reasoning:

Then why are some topics are forbidden from discussion? It’s for sure that [the government] must have done something wrong but refuse to admit. However, refusing to admit the truth can’t change the historical fact itself. It does not work but makes people see the lack of moral courage…

She further contended that freedom of speech is written into the Chinese Constitution. Yet, it’s the 21st century and Chinese people are still fighting for this right.

Finally, she appealed to all Chinese citizens to resist censorship, exercise freedom of speech, work for the complete abolition of censorship, and safeguard the dignity of the Chinese Constitution.

Within hours, the long and powerful article garnered thousands of thumbs-up and reposts. Unsurprisingly, the popularity also led to the article’s removal. Li is now reportedly banned from posting anything on her Weibo account for three months.

However, Li didn’t stop her exercise of free speech. Several days later, she published another long article on her WeChat account, commenting on her ban on Weibo. She argued that her ban has just become a new piece of evidence to show China’s lack of freedom of speech.

Although her new article was also deleted, her constant resistance has moved numerous Chinese netizens. What moved people most is not what she said — as it is common sense — but her gentle tone, rational reasoning, moderate wording and, most importantly, her courage.

Consequently, many Chinese netizens have been inspired to publish long articles to praise Li’s behavior and character on various online platforms, despite the fact that their articles about Li have also been deleted.

Charlotte Gao holds a MA degree in Asian Studies. Her research interests center around East Asian topics. She has worked in the past as a news editor, reporter, and writer for multiple traditional, online, and new media outlets.