China LGBT rights
Youngsters in China's Hunan province take part in an anti-discrimination parade on the International Day Against HomophobiaSTR/AFP/Getty

Chinese LGBT activists have responded angrily to the censorship board's ban on television shows that include storylines with same-sex relationships. While the board issued the guidelines in December 2015, it has been widely reported in local media in recent days amid a social media uproar over the cancellation of same-sex drama Addicted Heroin.

The guidelines issued by the China Television Drama Production Industry Association called for same-sex relationships not to be featured in television dramas and also called for the banning of other topics that "exaggerate the dark side of society", CNN reported.

The document printed in December stated: "No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on."

Matthew Baren, coordinator at ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival, told IBTimes UK: "We are disappointed and surprised. We've seen a lot of great home-grown queer content in the past couple of years, attracting huge audiences. People will continue to make queer films, queer TV shows. They reflect our reality."

Baren said that it has yet to be seen how the legislation would be enforced, however, he called the ban a "blow to Chinese creatives". LGBT rights group PFLAG China echoed Baren's views and also noted that the ban would slow down the previously decreasing social stigma that was attached to homosexuality in China. They also worried that the ban would slow down the progress made in advocating for LGBT legal rights in the country.

Hu Zhijun, executive director of PLFAG China, said: "It is a step backward that gay-related drama isn't allow to be on screens. Apparently TV programming administrators still see this topic as not publically accepted and discussed. It brings negative influences on social understanding and social acceptance towards LGBT [people]."

In addition to the ban on same-sex shows, other topics now forbidden on TV include those that would damage the country's image, promote lavish lifestyles and undermine national unity. The regulations also ban any TV dramas from "showing or promoting an unhealthy concept of marriage", including extramarital affairs and one-night stands.

Banned Chinese TV show Addicted Heroin is believed to have become extremely popular in the country over the Chinese New Year holiday, particularly among young females. Upon its release on 29 January, Pink News reported that it received 10 million hits in 24 hours. A poll conducted by the Chengdu Committee for the Well-Being of Youth and Teenagers revealed that more than 93% of people disapproved of the ban on the show.