Police in Beijing shut down China’s first “Mr. Gay Pageant”

I was surprised when I first learned via this video about the gay pageant event taking place. I was not surprised to learn a little while ago it was closed down right before it was set to start.

Police shut down what would have been China’s first gay pageant on Friday an hour before it was set to begin, highlighting the enduring sensitivity surrounding homosexuality and the struggle by gays to find mainstream acceptance.

Organizers said they were not surprised when eight police officers turned up at the upscale club in central Beijing where the pageant, featuring a fashion show and a host in drag, was set to take place.

”They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures,” Ben Zhang said. Police told him he needed official approval for events that included performances, in this case a stage show.

”I kind of saw that coming,” Zhang said.

Chinese police frequently cite procedural reasons for closing down gatherings that are deemed to be politically sensitive. Though the pageant did not have any overt political agenda, similar events in the past — such as a parade during the Shanghai Pride Festival last year — have been blocked by authorities.

”It totally has to do with moral standards and culture,” said contestant Emilio Liu, 26. ”If most people can’t accept it, then the government won’t let it happen.”

This is really too bad. China has made incredible strides in becoming more tolerant, and most Westerners would be shocked to learn just how open-minded many Chinese people in the big cities can be about this issue – as long as it’s not their son or daughter. The gay weddings a year ago in Tananmen Square were allowed to take place and China Daily did a wonderful job covering them (I wrote about it briefly here). So this is certainly a disappointment. Looking at the video I referenced, I can guess that it crossed a perceived moral line (maybe too much skin?). A shame.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

So all they need is a permit for an event that includes performances! That is all.

right? RIGHT!?

January 16, 2010 @ 4:53 am | Comment

The government can always find a way to rain on your parade – there’s always some permit they can say you need. Happens all the time. If this was okay for the government, the show would go on. They knew for weeks about this. The last-minute pulling of the plug tells you everything.

If anyone wants to argue that this was only about a permit and had nothing to do with the theme of the show itself…. Well, all I can say is look back over the recent years when they did the same thing in Shanghai with The Vagina Monologues, Gay Pride and many other events that the party felt uncomfortable with. Permits. Right.

January 16, 2010 @ 5:01 am | Comment

I’m guessing it had to do with the drag queens.

January 16, 2010 @ 7:00 am | Comment

and Richard I wouldn’t say this is a good indicator that “China hates gays” as the writer might be describing. The CCP runs a gay bar in Yunnan. But this is, of course, their idea for containing AIDS.

They approach it in a very cold, medical and pragmatic way, the author makes it seem like they just hate gays when they don’t really love them or hate them.

January 16, 2010 @ 7:12 am | Comment

The reason it is shut down is because some gays will reveal their private parts in public (always happen at gay a parades). Don’t tell me you think public exposure of these organs should be ok.

January 16, 2010 @ 7:32 am | Comment

and Richard I wouldn’t say this is a good indicator that “China hates gays” as the writer might be describing

Ferin, I think I made it quite clear in my post that China categporically does NOT hate gays.

In typical troll fashion, you put a phrase in quote marks – “China hates gays” – as if you are quoting someone, when no one ever said any such thing. The writer doesn’t even make the slightest hint that China hates gays. And yet you have it in quote marks and are arguing the point as if he had. Tell us where in the article “the author makes it seem like they just hate gays.” You can’t, because the author never said or implied any such thing.

I don’t attribute this to China hating gays at all. Just as I don’t attribute the closing down of Vagina Monologues in Shanghai a few years ago to China hating vaginas. It is simply too big a step for the government to be comfortable with, to make vaginas and gays and other things they’d prefer not to discuss in public so mainstream, so in the news. I understand that, but it’s a disappointment, if not an unexpected one.

Nice try, Red Star. But this is not a parade, it’s a pageant. There would have been no nudity.

January 16, 2010 @ 7:38 am | Comment

@merp
China hate gays? NO ,no ,no, as some Laowai said ” You commie homo-sons of guns” ,we all gay,we can not hate ourselves.
Laowai give the reason also,you know ,Laowai can have more girls on night in one bar than your whole lifetime,and you end thinking and become homo.

January 16, 2010 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

Should have checked the fire hydrants were correctly positioned…. ;-)

Oddly, on another forum, I was told by a Chinese feller that homosexuality in China has a long history (well, duuuh!). According to this young lad (a self confessed bisexual) that homophobia in China was actually a western import :-D
I was going to send a link about this, considering I sent in the Guardian article and video. But children et al (and not all of them mine, we had friends kids over too…) meant I’ve been slack on the blogosphere….

January 16, 2010 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

Living as a gay black male in America, it is truely heart-breaking to hear, see, or read about negative situations such as this that anywhere in the world. I believe and feel as though all people should be treated equally. But the fact of the matter is – we are not. We should not continue to live our lifes in fear of societal stereotype on the GLBT community.

January 16, 2010 @ 6:42 pm | Comment

Geoff, the anti-Japanese demonstraters a few years back didn’t need permits (nor did those protesting against Carrefour) – at least until some city chiefs felt they were bad publicity and shut them down. As richard says, the authorities will use red tape as an excuse to stop you doing something – if they don’t care about what you’re doing they won’t care whether you have signed Form 11A in triplicate and had it approved by three tiers of government officials 15 clear days before resubmitting it to Room 56B to counter-approval and then……

The event was not spur-of-the-moment, it was organised in advance. I doubt the city authorities knew nothing of it. If it was just a technical matter, why wait until the last minute to tell them they couldn’t go ahead? Because if they were told a week before that would have given the organisers time to apply for one. Then the authorities would have had to reject it (makes them look bad/China look backwards) or approve it (which they clearly didn’t want to do).

January 18, 2010 @ 12:37 am | Comment

I guess it wasn’t obvious but I was being sarcastic in my remarks. I know that permits are just an excuse and that even if they applied for these permits they would just be given the run around, followed by being tentatively granted the permit(s), followed by having them revoked on some insignificant oversight.

January 18, 2010 @ 9:02 am | Comment

I put it in quotes, Richard, because “China hates gays” like “China hates Tibetans” is a common meme in ridiculous Western propaganda.

Like “Muslims hate our freedoms”.

January 19, 2010 @ 6:49 am | Comment

Ferin, that is simply not true. It is not a common meme in Western propaganda that China hates gays. In fact, I don’t think in all my years of following China I’ve ever seen it said. If I had, I would have posted about it very critically.

Similarly, no one, to my knowledge, ever said ““Muslims hate our freedoms” – at least no one of any influence. Maybe some crackpot, but no one in a position of any power or influence. Bush said that Al Qaeda hated our freedoms, but like most other things he said, it was stupid and simplistic and only stuck with right-wingers and idiots. Even Bush never said Muslims hate our freedoms. (There is a huge Muslim population in the US.)

You are a fount of misinformation.

January 19, 2010 @ 7:44 am | Comment

Merp, please show me, at least, where you read that China hates gays is broadcast in western media. Most interested to find out.
As it is, most sources I have read, here in the west, in our different media, have suggested that China is actually quite tolerant of homosexuality. Most of the worry, if I may put it that way, is that a gay marriage produces no children. With no welfare net to protect anyone in old age, that’s quite the consideration.
The CCP, on the other hand, seems to have a view at variance with traditional Chinese views.
Again, you confuse China with the current ruling party.

January 19, 2010 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Richard, plenty of right-wing pundits have said “they” (we know who ‘they’ are) hate our freedoms.

They just use proxies and euphemisms now. Yes, they are idiots. But tens of millions of even dumber idiots are fooled by them. Look at the 2004 Presidential Election.

January 19, 2010 @ 7:57 am | Comment

Merp, simply false. No one ever said it. Where you can find it is in strawman comments like yours, where people say, “Some Americans say Muslims hate their freedoms.” You do know what a strawman is, right ferin? You use that tactic every day.

But look – you’ve turned a thread on a gay pageant in China into an argument about American bigotry! Nice work, old sport (to borrow a phrase from Stuart and The Great Gatsby. But let’s get back on topic.

January 19, 2010 @ 8:13 am | Comment

@ goldthorpe

Who said gay marriage necessarily means no children? If Chinese peasants can take advantage of gender screening technology to produce the present gender imbalance in the country, what’s to stop Chinese gays from using assisted human reproduction technologies to have kids of their own?

January 20, 2010 @ 9:09 am | Comment

schtickyrice
That’s pretty expensive reproductive techniques you’re talking about there. Adoption is much cheaper – but there may be some limiting factors involved, like governmental opposition.
Ultrasound is cheap as chips – that’s why everyone has access to it. Cloning is really expensive and rather patchy at present.
There is, of course, surrogacy. Needs a woman, mind….
Anyway, if you Google (or Baidu – no idea where you are) Gays in China you’ll see the sources that I alluded to (maybe).

January 20, 2010 @ 9:17 am | Comment

The irony is that China’s current gender imbalance (with some 20 million surplus young males reaching adulthood) is such that homosexuality might become a stabilizing force in the long run.

January 20, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

[...] even though so much has already happened in this new year.  Like how about the fact that the Beijing authorities shut down China’s first “Mr. Gay Pageant” and a guy (from Xinjiang of all places!) went to the international “Mr. Gay Pagaent” in [...]

March 9, 2010 @ 4:53 pm | Pingback

[...] even though so much has already happened in this new year.  Like how about the fact that the Beijing authorities shut down China’s first “Mr. Gay Pageant” and a guy (from Xinjiang of all places!) went to the international “Mr. Gay Pagaent” in Oslo [...]

November 6, 2010 @ 4:33 am | Pingback

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