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Gay parade coverage prompts a new round of Weibo censorship

A gay pride parade in Changsha, capital city of Hunan province (湖南省长沙市) on May 17 gained nationwide attention in China with picture coverage on many major Chinese web portals. Yet the Chinese media went silent on the real drama that took place after the parade. The words “Changsha”, “gay” and “parade” all became sensitive words on Weibo, China’s twitter-like microblogging platform as news spread that the main organizer of the parade was punished with 12-day detention by the Changsha police.

Two men kiss behind the banner that says: Rainbow China during the Gay Pride March in Changsha on May 17. Photo: news.163.com

The Changsha police allegedly took away four people who took part in Friday’s parade from their hotel later that day. On Saturday afternoon, three of the four people were released. On the afternoon of May 19, the Changsha police @长沙警事 issued a statement on Weibo saying a 19-year-old man surnamed Xiang, the main organizer of the parade was punished with a 12 day detention according to the Law of the People's Republic of China on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations (中华人民共和国集会游行示威法). The police referred to the pride march as an “illegal parade” in the statement because it had failed to get permission from the authority.

Activists holding a banner that reads: Homosexuals are also normal people during the Gay Pride Parade in Changsha on May 17. Photo: news.163.com

@阿强同志, a popular Weibo user who is openly gay asked on his Weibo, “How exactly can we parade legally? Every time we asked for permission we were turned down.” In one of his previous posts, he claimed to have interviewed the detained organizer Xiao Han (小寒) who said that he was not afraid of the police because “we are gay and we are only asking people not to discriminate against us. What’s to be afraid of?” Xiao Han was said to have been taken away by the police at around 2 am Saturday morning.

May 17 marked the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). In many major cities in China, people organized different activities to celebrate the day. The pride march in Changsha was the biggest in scale in which around 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists and volunteers took part. It was also the first of its kind organized in Changsha in celebration of IDAHO. A similar parade held in Guangzhou (广州市) also ended anticlimactically with some of the activists taken away by the police for handing out pamphlets. They were later released by the police.

However, in other cities, the LGBT activists managed to hold different activities without getting into trouble with the authorities. In Chengdu(成都市), a big city in southwest China’s Sichuan province, LGBT activists organized a “flash mob” in a downtown plaza where they danced to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”, according to @成爱工作组, the official Weibo of the LGBT activists in Chengdu. In Beijing, volunteers from the Beijing Rainbow Center @北京彩虹中心 organized a promotion themed “SAY YES!” for LGBT in the Temple of Heaven park which attracted the attention of many tourists, including many foreigners.

SAY YES! organized by Beijing Rainbow Center on May 18. Photo: weibo.com

@央视新闻 China Central Television’s official Weibo also expressed its support for LGBT by posting a Weibo early on the morning of May 17 which was titled “Homosexuals are also normal people.” The post, for some unknown reason was deleted and reposted with the title changed into “Homosexuality is not a mental disease”, which triggered a tide of angry protests.

The flash mob in Chengdu on May 17. The activists danced on a heart-shaped space outlined by the rainbow-colored umbrellas. Photo: weibo.com 


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