• Online petitions are circulating online criticizing Guangdong university's harsh treatment of Xiaoyu Wang (L) and her lesbian partner.

Online petitions are circulating online criticizing Guangdong university's harsh treatment of Xiaoyu Wang (L) and her lesbian partner. (Photo : Twitter)

More than 180 LGBT people from around the world have called for a gay-friendly environment for students at a south China university in a petition sent to the school's president on Wednesday, following controversy over the university's punishment of two gay students.

"We empathize with the lesbian couple at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies [GDUFS] who were denied their bachelor's degrees," one of the petition's organizers, nicknamed Sister Shan, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

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GDUFS drew widespread criticism in June for denying Xiaoyu Wang her diploma after her girlfriend proposed to her at their graduation. The university has since granted Wang her degree, but told the couple to keep their homosexuality to themselves, according to the BBC.

Officials with the on-campus Communist Couple were also reported to have warned the couple that they would "face punishment", after photos of them kissing went viral on Chinese social media.

"The most romantic day of my life turned into a nightmare", Wang said in a Facebook post in July. "I'm devastated and humiliated, but I'm fighting back."

The university has declined to comment to media about the incident.

"We were upset by the university's different attitudes and standards toward gay and legally married couples," Shan said, noting that GDUFS President Zhong Weihe has awarded 50 legally married alumni couples certificates of honor in 2015.

"We hoped to write a letter with [over] 100 signatures to help build a gay-friendly campus," she said.

On Sunday, the petition garnered 187 signatures from China and abroad on jinshuju.net, a data management website.

The letter urged the college to seek to understand and protect the gay community as well as offering courses on gay recognition to new students.

"Even today, LGBT [students] go through bullying, suicide and school expulsion because of their sexual orientation and their natural differences," said Liang Wenhui, founder of the Chinese Gay-Straight Alliance.

Liang also noted that teachers at GDUFS who previously tried to promote courses on sexual identity and homosexuality on campus were reprimanded by the school administration.

"In the diploma rejection case, the lesbian couple's parents were informed by the university of their sexual orientation. Their private matters should not be exposed against their will," Liang said.

On July, more than 75,000 people have signed a petition by international LGBT group All Out requesting the university to apologize to the two students.