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11 Jun 2009

China’s first LGBT pride festival faces censorship

Two events at the ongoing festival have reportedly been cancelled by the authorities.

The organisers of China's first Gay Pride Festival have been told to cancel two of their events, the BBC web site reported.

The Jun 10 screening of the lesbian-themed Lost in You, a 2006 feature film by China-born director Zhu Yiye was cancelled.
Organised by a group of mostly expatriates who also run Shanghai LGBT, a social group and email list with over 1000 members, the weeklong event features film screenings, and other social events.

Hannah Miller, one of the organisers, told Fridae that the group has not planned any parades or any events in public spaces, and are well aware of the country’s strict laws on public gatherings.

It appears that the Jun 10 screening of the lesbian-themed Lost in You, a 2006 feature film by China-born director Zhu Yiye was disallowed.

On the same day, the state-run English language China Daily in an editorial titled 'Pride of tolerance' gave the event a thumbs up saying it is a “good showcase of the country's social progress alongside the three decades of economic boom.”

“Shanghai Pride 2009 should be a source of great encouragement to the tens of millions of ‘comrades’, as homosexual men and women are called in the Chinese mainland.

The state-run English language China Daily quoted co-organiser Tiffany Lemay, an American expatriate, as saying: ""Shanghai Pride is a community building exercise. We hope to raise awareness of issues surrounding homosexuality, raise the visibility of the gay community, help people within our community to come out, and build bridges between the gay and straight communities."
“Meanwhile, the festival, though bereft of the massive street parade that is a feature of gay and lesbian festivals elsewhere, is also sending a strong signal to the 1.3 billion Chinese about greater acceptance and tolerance.”

The report estimates the population of homosexuals in the country to be between 30 and 40 million. Another article highlighted the festival and its organisers in a celebratory tone.

Netizens have observed that the festival has not been reported in the Chinese-language press despite the reports in China Daily and international news sites.

The BBC reported that officials have warned the owners of two venues planning to hold a play and a film screening they would face "severe consequences" if they went ahead.

Organisers also announced – via its official web site - the cancellation of the Open Bar event scheduled to be held tonight at Shanghai Studio. No reasons were given for the cancellation.

Other events including ‘The Big Bash’ on Sat, Jun 13, which organisers expect 2,000 people, appear on track. Organisers did not respond in time for this article.

Related articles in China Daily
- Pride of tolerance
- Shanghai hosts first gay pride festival


Reader's Comments

1. 2009-06-12 06:25  
Not exactly the greatest shock in the world, is it?
2. 2009-06-12 06:41  
Unfortunately, this event was planned a year too LATE. Should have done this last year when China was "performing" on the world stage for the Olympics. So much for Beijing's continuing attempts to de-throne Hong Kong and make Shanghai the new Asian world finance center. Expats -straight, gay or in-between- don't take kindly to censorship. And besides, it's just too damn cold up there, and now we're not just talking about the weather!
3. 2009-06-12 06:48  
p.s. Interesting to note which events were NOT canceled: the MONEY makers....GUANGXI anyone? got JUICE? got a red envelope for MY LEADER?
(yeah, I taught in mainland China for two years....)
4. 2009-06-12 08:10  
These setbacks are bound to happen in a nation in the midst of great social change. Around 1997 when I was still living in Korea, I remember the country's first queer film festival being shut down by the authorities after everything had been planned and organized. I went to the venue--the programs had been printed, the films rented, the speakers all set to discuss--and nothing was happening, or should I say, everything was in chaos. I was so sad that day. But things have changed since then. Gay actors have come out. Gay themes have made it into Korean cinema. There is a flourishing gay online community. It will take some time in China as well.
5. 2009-06-12 11:30  
I have no doubts that China will catch up with the rest of the world...even faster if the right PALMS are GREASED!
6. 2009-06-13 20:53  
Baby steps. Just continue to push and get a little more and a little more...... That's pretty much how it works. Acceptance has never come easy.
7. 2009-06-14 21:39  
Why is this news? Only when the headlines read:
"China's first LGBT pride festival CLEARS censorship rules"...
now THAT's news. :p
8. 2009-06-15 03:11  
Pushing forward in spite of obstacles is true courage! This is what I call news. When success comes with a high price, it becomes much more valuable, however small it may seem.

40 million homosexuals in China according to conservative estimates, that's only about 3% of the population. Chinese gay men are largely living in self-abhorrence. The percentage will rise when they do accept their sexuality as normal :-)
9. 2009-06-16 09:14  
FREE PUBLICITY for the censorship at Shanghai International Film Festival. Take advantage of this to get the word out that GLBT discriminatio is alive and well in China. Perhaps if a few government agencies LOSE FACE on the international stage, they will begin to get it: discrimination is BAD for BUSINESS.

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