China’s goth community posted selfies wearing black lipstick and sombre white makeup in an online protest over a peer who was forced to remove her makeup before boarding a subway car.
The social media blitz prompted an apology from the transport company in the southern city of Guangzhou.
Goths are a subculture known for their black clothes and makeup — with a popular segment known as “Gothic Lolita” whose members dress in dark outfits inspired by Victorian dolls.
Writing about the encounter on her Weibo social media account, the woman, who goes by the username EIGA-In My Heart, said she was stopped by a female security officer at a Guangzhou metro station on March 10 after her makeup was deemed “too scary”.
“On the basis of what law am I being stopped and my time being wasted?
“If there is, I will make a banner for the station of my own expense stating: thick makeup and goth outfits are prohibited on the metro,” she wrote, adding that it was not the first time this has happened to her.
The community jumped to her defence on social media, posting selfies in full make up on Twitter-like Weibo using the hashtag, #ASelfieForTheGuangzhouMetro.
In a country where anything deemed subversive and counterculture can be subject to censorship, the hashtag has quickly gained traction, attracting thousands of posts and some nearly 5.8 million views.
The Guangzhou Metro apologised last Saturday, admitting an “improper handling” of the situation.
“We are deeply remorseful and strive to improve,” the operator said in a post on Weibo.
“At the same time, we apologise to the affected user.”
This was not the first time security officers have stopped passengers for having overly thick makeup, members of the goth community said.
Self-identified goth Laora Gein, who posted a selfie in support, told AFP that she had been stopped at another Guangzhou subway station last November, after she had cosplayed for a Harry Potter movie.
“I eventually had to take the taxi home,” she said.
But other users were less supportive, accusing posters of using the hashtag to simply put up pictures of themselves.
“Since you have to take the subway and go to public places, you have to consider the perception of others,” one user wrote.
The style grew out of so-called gothic rock in the 1980s in Britain. Followers, many of whom cultivated a pale and gaunt look, wore black clothes and were typically immersed in the macabre and supernatural.
In recent years, it has gained a following in Asia, particularly in Japan, and has a nascent community in China.