Government-backed HIV forum for gays opens in China

Social reforms in China continue at an astonishing pace; after my last trip there, I was struck by the new open-mindedness and freedom to be the person you want to be – as long as you don’t mess with politics. This would have been unthinkable as recently as four years ago.

Beijing’s first government-backed Internet forum for homosexuals has slowly begun to take off, despite initial reluctance by authorities to give it too much publicity.

Fu Qingyuan, an official with the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Chaoyang District, said the centre created the forum two months ago but did not publicize it until Sunday because they did not want to cause unnecessary public debate.

The forum was created to promote HIV/AIDS prevention awareness among China’s homosexuals and offer professional assistance to the group, Fu said. It has two chatrooms: one for same-sex lovers to share their emotions and experiences, and the other for health advisors to offer counselling and advice on HIV/AIDS.

However, Fu admitted the forum had failed to attract postings on the notice board of www.cystd.com, the centre’s official website to spread HIV/AIDS prevention knowledge, due to lack of publicity. Fu said the centre was considering launching a moderate media campaign to publicize the forum.

“We’ll remain cautious because this is the first government-backed forum in Beijing to openly discuss same-sex love and it’s a highly sensitive issue in China.”

They’re still taking baby steps, and they always seem to take two steps forward and one step back. But that’s okay. Progress is progress. This is very good news for China’s gays and it says a lot about the government’s efforts to promote tolerance. Again, considering where they were just a few years ago, it’s extraordinary.

Via CDT.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

Are you so in love with China that you consider this mere trifle, progress? Progress, dear moderator, is when anyone can express themselves freely about any issue, including sexuality, on any forum (not just some government sponsored BS that is more likely a way flushing out “undersirables” than actually providing tolerance education). This government has, since its inception, proven to be nothing but an elite club designed to gain and maintain power for the use of its own members paid for by the plundering of resources (both natural and human) with complete disregard for the “governed.” Richard, sometimes, I think even you have apologist tendencies.

August 16, 2006 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

Ahmet, I think it might seem that way because people like Richard and myself see how far China has come in some regards – this kind of openess and freedom of personal, if not political, expression was simply unthinkable not so many years ago. My first experience in China was post-CR, at the beginning of the Deng era. You simply can’t imagine how different it was then and how little personal freedom people had.

So, yes. We all have ideals and where we’d like to see society go. But you know that expression, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”? Speaking as a bourgeoise incrementalist (I just made that up), I am really happy to see these steps forward.

August 16, 2006 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

Exactly what Lisa said. Would I like to see much more progress much more rapidly? Sure. But we all know progress isn’t going to drop down from the heavens in a gift-wrapped box. It’s going to come in increments and there will be great strides and depressing setbacks. No matter how frustrating the pace of progress is, this is still an extraordinary step forward and I have to acknowledge it. Whenever the unthinkable becomes thinkable – like the end of apartheid or the downing of the Berlin Wall – I am impressed. Is this new web site, which could be shut down at any moment, on that level? Not quite but almost in that it would literally have been unthinkable only a few short years ago, and today, there it is.

August 17, 2006 @ 2:18 am | Comment

richard

Your point about the site being closed down is what makes me more cautious. I’ll feel pleased about this when it is accepted by the censors – let’s come back to this discussion when it’s been open and operational for a year.

August 17, 2006 @ 4:59 am | Comment

richard

Your point about the site being closed down is what makes me more cautious. I’ll feel pleased about this when it is accepted by the censors – let’s come back to this discussion when it’s been open and operational for a year.

August 17, 2006 @ 5:00 am | Comment

[quote]Are you so in love with China that you consider this mere trifle, progress? [/quote]
Ahmet, that ain’t no trifle!!!

With any kind of social change in China, you must be very aware of the rate of change and it’s direction. If you are not, it’s very easy to mis-judge what’s happening here.

For the central government to *publicly* support the Chinese gay community like this – this is not just a favorable sign, I would go so far as to call it a break-through.

I’m glad to see things are on track for my standing prediction that China will have gay marriage before the US.

August 17, 2006 @ 9:44 am | Comment

Oh…I wouldn’t bet my booze money on it if I were you, Slim. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Perhaps the winds of change are blowing, but it wasn’t that long ago when the authorities where jailing AIDs activists.

August 17, 2006 @ 11:40 am | Comment

Shanghai Slim: you are right on the money. I wouldn’t be surprised at all when China legalizes gay marriage before the US. Most bigotry against homosexuality is rooted in religion (especially Christian and Muslim), which is a distinct minority in China. Compared to the US where the majority of people “disapprove the gay life style”, most Chinese people either tolerate or don’t care about other’s love lives — they are too busy pursuing their own career, wealth, and happiness.

This article is an excellent example of the CCP’s change of attitude towards gays. Decades ago, homosexuality was banned — together with make ups, high heels, pop music, and fashion — in the CCP’s pursuit of a puritan life style. However, the CCP has long abadoned that pursuit. Instead, it is focusing on how to cling to its power, and the gay movement is hardly a threat to the CCP.

August 17, 2006 @ 12:41 pm | Comment

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