While most of the party-goers detained in the raid of Q Bar, a new gay bar on the Bund, have already been released, the story has only just begun.
Here's what happened in a nutshell: Early Sunday morning, police stormed into Q Bar in the middle of a gogo boy performance, turned the lights on, and shoved about 70 bar employees and patrons (save the foreigners) batch by batch into a minivan that whittled them away to the Xiaodongmen police station, just a stone's throw away from the bar.
At the station, they were locked up in three rooms, where they were left in the cold without food or water, unattended to and uninformed of what was happening next. It was not until noon the next day when questioning began, and police attempted to make them sign off on statements that were in some instances contrary to what they had said.
At least three people remain under police custody -- the owner of the bar, Tony Li; the DJ for the evening, Steven Bao; and the gogo dancer, "KK". It remains unclear how long more they will be locked up for, but word on the street has it that Tony, the proprietor, will only regain his freedom after 15 days.
Local media reports mostly lopsided
Shanghai Daily reports that Huangpu police acted after receiving complaints that the bar was staging sex shows -- a claim vehemently refuted by everyone present on the day that Shanghaiist spoke to. The paper also quotes anonymous migrant workers as saying that naked, intoxicated men have been seen having sex on the roof.
Meanwhile, according to Chinese language portals Xinmin and Eastday, Huangpu Police rejected online "rumours" of detainees not being given food and drink as "false". They also claimed that they provided all detainees with tea and food, and because the weather was cold, the police went so far as to turn on the heating just for them.
Huangpu Police went on to assure Xinmin and Eastday that they had only acted because the bar was staging obscene shows, though no evidence was submitted for the media's perusal. The bar patrons were only brought to the Xiaodongmen station, they said, to "assist with investigations", and that everything had been done in full accordance with the law, and there was strict compliance with due process.
None of the party goers were interviewed in any of the above-mentioned reports, but this was somewhat remedied by the report by International Channel Shanghai (ICS). The story of the Q-Bar raid headlined ICS' 9.30pm "Shanghai Live" news bulletin last evening, and interviewed two bar patrons. One of them, Lin Jian, a fashion editor, confirmed that an erotic dance was taking place that evening but the performer had his brief on throughout the entire show. Another party-goer, also surnamed Liu, told ICS that if the show was indeed pornographic, then such shows should not be allowed anywhere in Shanghai, whether it was a gay bar or straight.
(Shanghaiist) Editor's note: An archived version of the news bulletin is available here (find the April 4 episode of "Shanghai Live" at 21:30). More after the jump...
Bar patrons refute statements by police
Party goers Shanghaiist spoke to have come out strongly to refute the claims by Huangpu Police on several fronts. Regular patrons of Q Bar have described the suggestion that naked men have been having sex on the roof as "wild" and "ludicrous", all the more so given prevailing weather conditions. Having been just opened for months, the Q Bar attracted a modest crowd only on Saturday, if at all, and was mostly empty for the rest of the week.
Other unfortunate detainees told Shanghaiist it was not true that the police were proactive in providing food and water and in turning on the heating to ensure everyone remained comfortable. They said it was only after they kicked up a huge ruckus that the police called in a woman to sell snacks to them, and a security guard provided them with some water.
Long time Shanghai expat, Franck Crouvezier, a French restaurant consultant, was one of the lucky foreigners to have been spared the ride to the police station. He said, "You know, I've been through a couple of raids now in Shanghai and Hong Kong and elsewhere, and I've never seen anything so heavy-handed on such a tiny bar before!"
"Yes, it was a sexy show, but it certainly wasn't a sex show. People were just there having drinks, and you could totally have been there without knowing there was a show going on, and the next thing you know, you're in a police station. This was just way over the top!" added Crouvezier.
While unconfirmed rumours remain rife in the local LGBT community that the raid was a result of a call to the police by a competing bar, most affected reserved their anger for the Huangpu Police, who they say has treated them harshly for no rhyme or reason.
In a phone interview with Shanghaiist, Lin Jian, the above-mentioned fashion editor, said what frustrates him most is the apparent disregard for the law shown by the Huangpu Police throughout the process. "I've been doing my fair share of legal research into this," he said. "And as far as I know, anyone detained by the police should be informed of what's happening to them, have the right to defend themselves, and the right of access to legal counsel."
"Also, anyone who feels wrongly detained should have the right to send in a formal appeal against the process. We were given no access to any of the above rights, and had our freedom of movement severely restricted. This is not right," asserted Lin.
Another of those held on Sunday decried the apparent discrimination by Huangpu police. Bobo (pseudonym) tells Shanghaiist, "I just don't understand what's up with the police. If you can have so many bars around town with gogo girls dancing in bikinis, why can't a gay bar have gogo boys dancing in briefs?"
"How unlucky was I, man! I didn't even know there was going to be a show that night," added Bobo. "In fact, I had only barely arrived with my friends before the police rushed in and escorted us unceremoniously to the police station. And to add insult to injury, they didn't even do anything with us till the next day. What the hell."
Yet others were disappointed by the differential treatment received by foreigners. Huang Fei, a young executive working in the research field, wrote on his Sina Weibo microblog that the episode has only strengthened his resolve to give up his Chinese citizenship.
Chilling effect on the local gay community
While some members of Shanghai's gay community heaved a sigh of relief that they were not present at Q Bar that fateful evening, others have readily cancelled all party plans for the foreseeable future, clearly spooked by the news. How much of an impact this will have on business in gay bars around Shanghai remains to be seen.
In addition, many of those that were actively tweeting from their mobile phones while under police custody (we translated some of those tweets in our earlier report) have also silently deleted their tweets. Shanghaiist's best efforts to reach out to this subgroup were unrequited.
Gogo, a former co-owner of the once-popular but now-defunct Hengshan Road bar, The Box, paints a dismal picture of the situation that the Chinese LGBT community now finds itself in. "We've all been getting too used to being bullied and disrespected. This is why nobody dares to speak up when a few members of the community suffer injustice," she says.
The former journalist adds, "Even the Chinese media will only speak up for the powerful. I can't help but feel saddened by it all."
Possible class action in the works?
Among the many affected that reached out to Shanghaiist, one has indicated a "strong desire" to sue the Huangpu Police's Xiaodongmen station, and said he would be on the lookout for others similarly affected to join him in a possible class action suit. Shanghaiist's background checks on the man indicate he is a well-known writer with a large following who moves actively in music and fashion circles.
As someone who is completely out about his sexuality to his family and friends, he feels that he has nothing to lose in his attempt to seek redress.
Asked what the objective of such a legal action would be, he says, "My ultimate goal is really just to ensure that such things do not happen in the future ever again."
This report was first published by Shanghaiist on Apr 5, 2011 and is republished with permission. Kenneth Tan is a Singaporean blogger and businessman living in Shanghai, China. His blog is at kennethism.com.