China shuts down its first gay cultural festival

I know people who were very involved in this, and this news makes me feel absolutely sick.

LIU CHUNXIAO and his partner were calm when police shut down the opening of China’s first gay and lesbian culture festival yesterday. Mr Liu may be 19 but he is more than familiar with sexual discrimination.

Organisers had planned to hold their festival of films, plays, exhibitions and seminars on homosexuality at one of the trendiest artistic communities in China. The venue was to be the studios and warehouses at the 798 complex of converted factory buildings in northeastern Beijing. Most of the capital’s hippest and most happening events take place among the grey concrete blocks, fashionable French bistro-style bars and industrial pipes of 798.

Police notified studio owners that the event would not be allowed to proceed. Li Yinhe, a distinguished sociologist from the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, had been invited to address the opening, but had to stay away.

The group of about 30 participants bold enough to reveal their sexuality in China’s conservative society were undeterred by the cancellation. They decided to move their ground-breaking event to On/Off, a Beijing gay bar.

Police swarmed around the bar even before the group arrived. “This bar is temporarily closed for review,” police told would-be festival participants.

A few gays and lesbians retreated to a nearby hotpot restaurant. One man who gave his name as Mr Sun said: “There is no reason for the police to stop us. We are doing nothing to disturb social stability.”

The members of China’s gay community had little doubt as to why On/Off had been closed. Mr Cui, a film student, said: “The attitude in China is still very conservative. They say it’s illegal, but what’s illegal about wanting to understand more about these issues?”

The police were clear. “They didn’t have permission to hold this event,” said an official.

Of course, these are the same prudes who banned the Vagina Monologues a couple of years ago so we shouldn’t be too surprised. But that doesn’t make it any less infuriating or any less wrong. What are they so afraid of?

(And I still want to move back there??)

The Discussion: 33 Comments

Believe it or not, some countries still have morales. You westerners never give up trying to press your sick values on China. Mr. Peking Duck, do us a favor, stay in taiwan province.

December 17, 2005 @ 10:09 pm | Comment

Oh brother. XY, homosexuality is not a product of the “decadent West.” It exists in every culture, throughout history. Look to China’s traditional literature, and you’ll find plenty of references.

December 17, 2005 @ 10:17 pm | Comment

There’s no use in responding to XY. He doesn’t exist. Just click his name and you’ll see: Like most who espouse CCP ideology he’s a non-entity, as reflected by his email.

December 17, 2005 @ 10:34 pm | Comment

It is true that China is still quite conservative about this whole homosexuality thing. It takes time. How do you think west European, the origin of catholic, gets so open on this phenomenon now? As a matter of fact, there are a lot gay bars in China, especially in BJ and Shanghai. Also, this though-failed fesival showed the increasing number of above-ground gays. It is something, isn’t it? Give this country some time, don’t be so negative yet. Plus, if such festival had been planned in some Republican states, it would have been banned even sooner.

December 17, 2005 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

HX doesn’t merit a reply. He’s diseased.

Tacanio, I’ll give them time, but being silent is not the answer. America and Western Europe got to where they are today by active, often radical dissent and protest. Do you think we should all be quiet and “just give China time” and then it will sort itself out, like by magic? That never happens; it takes activism to get rights for people. They never just drop down from the sky.

SARS and AIDS showed pressure and criticism are essential tools for getting the CCP to improve (and even then, they aren’t very effective tools all the time). Silence equals death.

December 17, 2005 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

Ah ha. So China has morals. Alright, if they want to be consistent about this, first thing they can do is shut down all the brothels.

December 18, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

I don’t know if this kind of thing would matter in modern China, but it could be argued in communist circles that the anti-gay taboo is a vestige of internalized submission to bourgeousie paternalist oppression, so the taboo itself cripples the primary struggle for socialist liberation. Gay rights in the service of the class struggle!

December 18, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

And my devoutly Catholic Aunt is always telling me, “Ivan, you gotta stop running around with so many women. I hope the Chinese Communists will teach you some good sexual morals!”

December 18, 2005 @ 12:39 am | Comment

As for the comment about if this went on in a Republican-leaning state, the difference is that in the US, homosexuality, while condemned by many, is considered a legitimate and fair topic of discussion at least. Plus, had this been banned in the US, the organizers would have the resources of a relatively fair legal system to redress their grievances. I’m still waiting for that fair legal system from China.

December 18, 2005 @ 2:47 am | Comment

boo: heh. But actually, under the communist régimes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, homosexuality was considered a bourgeois aberration, and penalized as such. Only since 1990 has homosexuality been decriminalized in most of those countries — with the exception of East Germany, where it never was illegal.

December 18, 2005 @ 3:34 am | Comment

The Communists want homosexuals to get married and make babies, so that they can do more forced abortions.

December 18, 2005 @ 3:35 am | Comment

vaara, obviously that’s why the USSR fell apart: they were crippled by residual submission to paternalist oppression which manifested itself in fear of homosexuality, and this rendered them unable to fight the true war, against capitalism.


December 18, 2005 @ 3:55 am | Comment

” a vestige of internalized submission to bourgeousie paternalist oppression, so the taboo itself cripples the primary struggle for socialist liberation. Gay rights in the service of the class struggle!”

Could you translate that into English for me, please?

December 18, 2005 @ 4:38 am | Comment

It’s a d@mn shame that Beijing officials shut down the festival.

They should see the writing on the wall. There’s already a c0l0r rev0lution happening in China — and it’s color is pink.

December 18, 2005 @ 5:12 am | Comment

“HX doesn’t merit a reply. He’s diseased.” Again Richard, if they don’t provide a real email address they should be denied access to commenting here.
I do like the rationale for the commies attacking gays (along with Buddhist Tibetan monks and FLG, they make a trioka of passive victims of state oppression) – they’re all ‘hooligans’. Hahaha. Bet you in 2020 when there’s 20 -30 million bachelors stirring up social trouble, they’ll have wished they were all gay….

December 18, 2005 @ 5:18 am | Comment

Well I do notice a lot of Chinese guys with their arms around each other.

But they never kiss each other when they’re drinking, like Russian men do.
What’s wrong with them? All REAL men kiss each other when they drink, don’t they?

December 18, 2005 @ 5:25 am | Comment

Ok, to be fair. The Chinese government has made a national policy in 2001 that gays are not to be socially stigmatized. This is of course not due to the fact that the CCP suddenly had a change of heart, but because of the AIDS issue. They decided that gays are forced to have sex underground, so it’s better to bring this issue out in the open.

There are actually several high-profile legislations passed that removed the title of “illness” from being homosexuals. The word “Homosexual” is now openly seen in the media, and they are not considered “wrong” anymore. (I mean officially they are not considered wrong, what average people really think is another issue). In fact, CCTV made a documentary on the plight of homosexuals a while ago. It showed several underground gay bars in Beijing and interviewed some homosexuals about how they feel the society perceived them. Then it ended on a note calling for the society to be more acceptable towards homosexuals…

The problem is what the central government and CCTV is saying is not being heard and not being implemented at the local levels. Hu Jintao and CCTV may urge one thing, and the local police chief does another. And this is a general problem with China today, “The edicts of the top cannot travel beyond the walls of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao’s office”. This is also the same reason why the Central Government sent documents repeatedly to local governments emphasizing no violent approaches to village protestors, and the Dongzhou tragedy still happened. This is also why numerous legistation and policies were passed on safe mining and shutting down unsafe mines, and mining accidents actually increased since then….

December 18, 2005 @ 9:38 am | Comment

–Re: Ivan on Chinese guys with drinks.
Chinese women holding hands, Chinese men crossing arms, but no more than that. it does not mean they are gay or non-gay. It is a culture thing. Do you know only a small amount of Chinese people kissed their parents in their whole lives? Chinese people keep their physical distance, unlike Latin American.
–Re:Richard on being silent.
I didn’t mean being silent. As Pekingduck’s last sentence is a question if he wants ever to move back there, I was suggesting that don’t be so negative. Chinese people are not silent, which is why there was this festival planned. –We, people talking in this forum, are not silent, either.
— In addition to early West Europe, Republican states, I would like to remind us that maybe it also makes sense to compare China with other East Asian cultures. I doubt democratic Korea would allow such thing, although I might be wrong.

December 18, 2005 @ 9:58 am | Comment


You slightly misunderstood my last comment. I was being ironic and provocative, about how what might APPEAR to be “effeminate” in one culture, might be considered very masculine in another – and how there is no way to “tell” who is gay based on their personalities or customary habits. AND, there is NO correlation between overtly “masculine” behavior and male sexuality. (I’m leaving Lesbians alone for the moment – ah, no pun intended there…. 🙂

Now, the Turkish JANISSARIES, oh yeah, they WERE homosexual. And they were deadly warriors. And the ancient Roman Army was rampant with homosexuality – although, most of them were straight, given the chance – but not all of them – and nobody really cared. And then on the darker side, there was a lot of homosexuality among the Nazis – especially among the SA – but on the other hand, Hitler was essentially straight, although he was more like neutral, almost asexual, not much sexuality at all.

The SECOND WORST President in American history, James Buchanan, was probably gay. But the WORST President in history, GW Bush, is straight. So you really can’t generalise about these things.

Although, when I remember Bush prancing around in his codpiece, I thank God that Bush was not born as an aristocrat in 17th century England, because then he certainly would have pranced around in makeup and high heels and buggered as many little boys as his father could buy for him……

(wicked grin here…. 🙂

December 18, 2005 @ 10:40 am | Comment

Oh alright. It’s time for me to earn another 1000 years in Purgatory, with an anti-clerical, Catholic joke:

Q: How do you get a nun pregnant?

A: Dress her up like an Altar-Boy.

And that raises another set of issues,
about how too much repression of sexuality inevitably backfires and leads to perversion.

If you CONVINCE people that their sexuality is sick, then they will act it out in sick ways. In America, 200 years ago, nobody bothered with “Gay Pride” parades – because there was no issue of “pride versus shame” for gays at that time…and the histrionic (often ridiculous) demonstrations of some American gays in OUR time, is largely a reaction against a NEW kind of repression, which American gays did not suffer from 200 years ago…

…and vis a vis China, let me suggest (speculatively) that perhaps ONE of the causes for the sexual perversions of China during its centuries of decline (after year 1200 or so) – eg, the custom of breaking women’s feet, and men fetishising women’s tiny shoes as sex objects – I SUGGEST, speculatively, that the Chinese perversion about women’s feet, was caused by all of the sexual repression of decadent, Post-Sung-Dynasty China…..

…”oh, your three-inch shoes are SO SEXY, let me look at your tiny shoes and wank off….” – ah, that is NOT healthy. After the late Sung dynasty, Chinese men became rather perverted about sex – and women were turned into objects – and it was all part and parcel of sexual repression. But earlier, in the TANG dynasty? No such problems. The Tang dynasty was very open about sexuality. The practice of breaking women’s feet started at the same time as the repression of women, and the repression of natural sexual inclinations, in China.

So, in fact, I suggest that IF today’s China lightens up on gays, the straights of China will also become healthier and less perverted than they are now……

December 18, 2005 @ 11:09 am | Comment

You’re on a roll, Ivan.

Colata: The problem is what the central government and CCTV is saying is not being heard and not being implemented at the local levels. Hu Jintao and CCTV may urge one thing, and the local police chief does another.

This is becoming the line of defense du jour for CCP apologism. CCP central officials walk on water; all the bad stuff is from those bad, bad local officials. With this logic, you can’t blame the central leaders for anything, ever, unless their personal fingerprints are on the gun.

I personally don’t believe the “local police” would have shut down the gay cultural festival in Beijing. Their orders came from elsewhere. Whether the central government was directly invoilved I can’t say, but when you have a system where there are no checks and balances and a trivial local official can override the central authorities and do as he pleases, you know the system is ripe for an overhaul.

December 18, 2005 @ 5:30 pm | Comment

Well, to summarise my roll in a common sense way, restating the obvious:

Oh, well, obviously China’s MAIN problem today is that it needs a BIGGER POPULATION! So, of COURSE it makes good sense for China’s “economic development”, to encourage as many heterosexual marriages possible, to bring MORE children into the world!

(Dripping with sarcasm….)

December 18, 2005 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

…right, now all that said, let me enjoy my new South Park DVD’s starring Mr Garrison’s new friend, “Mister Slave”. “Oh Jee-uth Chrith!” 🙂

December 18, 2005 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

What was that traditional Chinese term? “Broken sleeve” or “cut sleeve” that indicated when the emperor had slept with his favourite male concubine and didn’t want to disturb him (so cut his sleeve off)?

Homosexuality is prevalent in many, many cultures even in early history. Those that try and ignore it are lying to themselves. More importantly it is up to others to choose how to live their own lives. Being gay does not hurt other people – ergo it should not be criminal.

’nuff said.

December 18, 2005 @ 5:42 pm | Comment

Oh as a side note. For those people that think being gay is wrong because couples don’t introduce, so what? What about the rich-bitch couples that refuse to have kids so they can wallow in their money and not have to spend any of it raising a child? I don’t see anyone proposing to list them as suffering from a “psychological disease” and “treat” them accordingly…….

December 18, 2005 @ 5:44 pm | Comment

Right on, Raj! And the term you are thinking of is “the passion of the cut sleeve”.

Raj, are you Indian? If so, can you give us any idea of what India’s gay scene is like thee days? I’m really curious.

December 19, 2005 @ 12:39 am | Comment

If you place your cursor over Raj’s name in the “Posted By” line, I think you’ll figure out his nationality. 🙂

December 19, 2005 @ 12:45 am | Comment

Bad days for people who still have morals. Seems that the sick values of the Westerners are starting to pervert even the minds of inocent animals.

Here is the shocking story of Dashik and Yahuda two male vultures who’s home is the Biblical Zoo in the holy city of Jerusamlem. They where not only obserbved mating but have also been seduced by the immoral keepers to raise two baby birds. Without guiltiness the keepers even dared to praise their outrageous actions: “We’re very proud of them. We think they’ve done a marvelous job,” said bird keeper Sharon Sterling. “They’ve behaved extremely well, the best parents we’ve ever seen.”

Good to know that there are still countries in the world that have not yet surrendered to the decadent imperialistic Western culture.
Save the vultures! No surrender!

December 19, 2005 @ 4:36 am | Comment

Lol, richard don’t confuse them! Ok I had better come clean. I am a British citizen and although I would say I have a fairly interesting cultural background it is all European 😉

The nickname “Raj” refers to the British Raj, which was one of my favourite topics at university. It reminds me of both the positive and negative legacies of the Empire, as in India they could be seen side-by-side.

Slim, I am afraid that I have 0% knowledge of India’s gay community. I suggest google 😉

shulan – get a life. The people that are a problem in this are the insecure dorks that are threatened by gays and are insecure about their own sexuality.

December 19, 2005 @ 5:47 am | Comment

Raj, I’m not sure if you understood my post in the way I meant it. Anyway cheers.

December 19, 2005 @ 7:34 am | Comment


Well perhaps everyone on PD should use “sarc” tags from now on, eh? 😉

December 19, 2005 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

“the USSR fell apart: they were crippled by residual submission to paternalist oppression which manifested itself in fear of homosexuality, and this rendered them unable to fight the true war, against capitalism.”

“residual submission”? or rather, the USSR was just another “paternalist oppression” regime closeted within the masculine worshiped Mother Russia.

December 19, 2005 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

i’m afraid for this, i love China, Chinese People, Chinese Government, but i love freedom over all .
Eddy for gay people in china

April 23, 2006 @ 2:09 am | Comment

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