WeChat terminates LGBT+ accounts of Chinese college students in overnight crackdown – SupChina

shanghai pride

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Jiayun Feng 4

A participant takes part in the Pink Party, an event of the annual week-long LGBT festival Shanghai Pride, in Shanghai, China June 15, 2019. Aly Song / Reuters

In a crushing blow to LGBT+ communities in China, WeChat has, for unspecified reasons, permanently banned nearly all public accounts created and run by LGBT+ groups at Chinese colleges. 

According to Weibo user Xiǎolán Sānhàojī @小蓝三号机 (in Chinese), who frequently shares information and news about LGBT+ issues, complaints about the removals started to roll in on the evening of Monday, when followers of the affected WeChat accounts discovered that they had been shut down. 

WeChat is Tencent’s messaging, social, and payment app, which has become essential to communication and daily life in China.

The LGBT+ groups found that their content had been permanently deleted, and the accounts’ main pages replaced with a notice saying that after receiving “relevant reports from users,” WeChat decided to terminate them because they “had violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese internet.” But beyond the brief note, the platform has yet to offer any further explanation. 

While there has been no official word on the exact scope of the crackdown, Weibo user Xiaolan Sanhaoji wrote that the purge appeared to have affected most public accounts of campus organizations serving LGBT+ students in Chinese colleges, including top institutions like Tsinghua University and Peking University. 

In comments to a post (in Chinese) where Xiaolan Sanhaoji provided updates on casualties of the removal, some Weibo users pointed out that some of the deleted accounts had been inactive for years, which means that the termination was unlikely to have been caused by recent violations of content rules. Rather, they speculated that the removal was part of a government-backed campaign to stifle LGBT+ voices and activities on Chinese college campuses. This is despite the fact that most of the affected student groups had never received recognition from their schools.

Speculation about an official campaign was further fueled by a photo of a government order that has been making the rounds on Chinese social media. In the unverified document, which is dated May 19, the Education Ministry of Jiangsu Province ordered Hohai University to conduct a “comprehensive inspection” of feminist and LGBT+ student organizations on its campus, which it said should include reviews of their members and presences on social media.

The large-scale termination of accounts has been met with outrage from LGBT+ individuals and others on the Chinese internet. “What saddens me the most is that we have no idea how to revolt and who we should react against,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese), while another one commented (in Chinese), “What a giant step backward for my country. I’m so disappointed.”

WeChat’s move against LGBT+ communities comes amid increasingly strident official discrimination and widespread homophobia in Chinese society. Earlier this year, a court in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province ruled in a landmark case that a university textbook’s description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder” was not a factual error but merely an “academic view.” In June, which is celebrated internationally as Pride Month, Shanghai Pride, China’s longest-running and only major annual celebration of sexual minorities, was canceled following its abrupt announcement of taking an indefinite hiatus due to “safety concerns” last year.

https://supchina.com/2021/07/06/wechat-terminates-lgbt-accounts-of-chinese-college-students-in-overnight-crackdown/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Canada Battles More Than 180 Wildfires With Hundreds Dead In Heat Wave

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James MacDonald/Getty Images

Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday. James MacDonald/Getty Images hide caption

Jeannette Muhammad

Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday.

James MacDonald/Getty Images

Emergency responders in Canada are currently battling more than 180 wildfires in British Columbia amid an intense heat wave that has left hundreds dead in the Pacific Northwest.

About 70% of the active fires were likely caused by lightning strikes, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service’s dashboard. Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist with the company Vaisala, says a lightning detection network uncovered more than 700,000 lightning strikes in the area between June 30 and July 1.

About 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, residents in the village of Lytton were forced to evacuate to avoid a spreading fire that began Wednesday afternoon.

While two residents have already been confirmed dead by the British Columbia Coroners Service, others are still missing.

For three days, Lytton suffered through record-breaking heat, reaching up to 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Then on Wednesday, the fire started and the village’s roughly 250 residents were forced to flee.

Lytton resident Jeff Chapman was with his parents as they noticed smoke and flames in the distance. He helped them climb into a freshly-dug trench, before fleeing when he realized there wasn’t enough space. The fire arrived in just 10 minutes, he told the CBC.

He ended up lying near railroad tracks only to watch a power line fall on top of the trench where his parents were.

“I just can’t get it out of my mind,” Chapman told the network.

Now about 90% of Lytton is burned, according to Brad Vis, a member of Parliament representing the area.

In response to Lytton’s devastation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal aid would be sent to help the village rebuild.

The fires come amid a massive heat wave for the region. Extreme heat can intensify the risk of wildfires.

Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for the British Columbia Coroners Service, said last week in a statement that 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” had been reported in the last six days of June.

“͞While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related,” Lapointe said, “it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”

The coroners service said between June 25 and July 1, 719 overall deaths were reported, which is three times the number that would be expected for the same period.

The U.S. is also being pummeled by heat, with the northwest and north-central U.S. feeling extreme temperatures. Many areas continue to experience temperatures in the 90s and 100s, according to the National Weather Service.

Scientists say the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. The health risks from them may also be greater early in the summer, when people are less accustomed to higher temperatures.

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/04/1013026434/canada-battles-more-than-180-wildfires-with-hundreds-dead-in-heat-wave

He needs more than notes! (@RNCResearch)

WildEarth Guardians scores big protections for wildlife in New Mexico

wildearthguardians.org

Agreement with USDA’s Wildlife Services curbs killing of cougars, bears, and other native species 6

SANTA FE, NM—In a major win for New Mexico’s wildlife, WildEarth Guardians settled its lawsuit against USDA’s Wildlife Services after the federal program agreed to stop its reckless slaughter of native carnivores such as black bears, cougars, and foxes on all federal public lands; cease killing all carnivores on specific protected federal lands; and end the use of cruel traps, snares, and poisons on public lands.

The settlement additionally requires public reporting of Wildlife Services’ activities in the state, including documenting non-lethal preventative measures employed by the program. These protections will remain in place pending the program’s completion of a detailed and public environmental review of its work.

The settlement agreement comes after WildEarth Guardians sued Wildlife Services in October 2020 over the program’s reliance on severely outdated environmental reviews of its work. The agreement, filed with the federal district court of New Mexico, ensures that Wildlife Services will no longer conduct any wildlife killing in New Mexico’s specially protected areas such as designated Wilderness, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild & Scenic River corridors. The program will cease using sodium cyanide bombs (M44s) and other poisons on all public lands within the state. Additionally, the program will no longer kill beavers, which are increasingly seen as critical to mitigating the effects of widespread drought.

Notably, the agreement also mandates that a program district supervisor reviews all wolf depredation investigation reports before a livestock depredation determination is made in an effort to ensure appropriate safeguards for the endangered Mexican gray wolves that inhabit southwestern New Mexico.

“It’s past time for Wildlife Services to start grappling with 21st century science showing killing wildlife in hopes of preventing livestock losses doesn’t work, is often counterproductive, horribly inhumane, and robs native ecosystems of critically important apex carnivores,” said Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “We’re glad our settlement kickstarts this process, while affording New Mexico’s wildlife some reprieve from the government’s archaic and cruel killing practices.”

The settlement agreement, finalized on March 11, 2021, includes multiple temporary provisions that will soon become permanent parts of New Mexico law as the result of the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act (“Roxy’s Law”) earlier this month. Roxy’s Law—championed by WildEarth Guardians and its allies in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition—bans the use of traps, snares, and poisons, on all public lands in the state of New Mexico. While Roxy’s Law is set to go into effect on April 1, 2022, the settlement agreement ensures that Wildlife Services refrains from using these devices on public lands immediately.

“The past several weeks have seen incredible wins for New Mexico’s native wildlife,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “With the climate crisis, drought, and human expansion all taking a toll on our state’s biodiversity, it’s time we stop seeing wildlife as something that needs to be killed and culled and instead see it as something that deserves protection and respect.”

Wildlife Services is culpable of killing thousands of animals in New Mexico each year including coyotes, cougars, prairie dogs, several varieties of fox, and even endangered Mexican gray wolves. Per federal law, Wildlife Services must use up-to-date studies and the best available science to analyze the environmental impact of their animal damage control program on New Mexico’s wildlife and native ecosystems. Under the agreement, Wildlife Services must provide an environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in New Mexico by December 31, 2021.

The settlement agreement also requires Wildlife Services to significantly increase its overall transparency with the public by documenting and releasing—via its state website—detailed yearly reports of its wildlife “damage control” practices. This includes the number and type of animals captured and by which method, the number of requests for assistance and the reason given (livestock protection, health and safety, nuisance, etc.), and types of non-lethal preventative measures employed by Wildlife Services or the party requesting lethal control. This type of detailed information has previously only been available through formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which typically take many months, if not years, for USDA to fulfill.

“A public reporting requirement will compel Wildlife Services to be held accountable to the general public for its actions,” said Schwartz. “We hope that this motivates Wildlife Services to employ practices in line with the values of the public and embrace the use of scientifically verified non-lethal conflict prevention.”

BackgroundWildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other wild animals. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry.

The program reported killing more than 433,000 native animals nationwide in 2020. Nontarget animals, including pets and protected wildlife like wolves, grizzlies and eagles, are also at risk from the program’s indiscriminate methods.

Over the last five years, litigation by WildEarth Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements and legal victories in Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities.

Large male black bear feeding on hawthorn berries during the fall. Photo by Sam Parks.

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/wildearth-guardians-scores-big-protections-for-wildlife-in-new-mexico/