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5 Apr 2011

Shanghai police rebut "rumours" surrounding gay bar raid as one detainee plans to sue

Although a local newspaper reported that Huangpu police acted after receiving complaints that the bar was staging sex shows, the claim has been vehemently refuted by everyone present on the day, according to the Shanghaiist blog.

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.


Q Bar Shanghai. Photos: qbarshanghai.com

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.


Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:51
Comment #2 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-06 00:23
3. 2011-04-06 01:04  
this news even published on my town's most famous newspaper, and the worst is, it said that they're having sex, dancing naked and do many ''horrible'' things on the bar!!

I wish all the police's kid will become gay and lesbian and got captured by the police themselves one day!

Hatred cant be dispelled with hatred, i know it clearly, but this is already too much...
4. 2011-04-06 02:08  
In Atlanta, we had a raid on one of the gay bars a couple years ago. There were small demonstrations following the raid. Legal action is good option to follow. Here it generated a lot of media attention and the plaintiffs were awarded over $1M. Since then, that particular unit of the police dept. has been disbanded as well. More info at:


Hope things get better in China, but it does take time and actions.
5. 2011-04-06 02:55  
"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?""

Totally agree with this line hahha
6. 2011-04-06 04:19  
"Anonymous migrant workers"? How shady is that -_-;;? For all we know the police could have just made it up and put it in their reports. And by being annoyed and sending in a woman who sells food to them? If they're detained, they should be provided food and water, not starved to death like some slave that has no rights at all. They're still human, they deserve to have food and water not to be starved then given food by having them purchase it...
7. 2011-04-06 04:36  
I don't foresee tolerance levels against the LGBT community improving in China until we see changes in neighbouring cities/countries like Singapore/ Hong Kong etc.
8. 2011-04-06 04:40  
Oh please the whole timeline & story is fabricated.I totally agree with #5 above.It is a pure homophobic act.
9. 2011-04-06 08:31  
So sad to hear that situations like this are still occurring in such a progressive/cosmopolitan city! I hope they follow up with legal action and that is it a fair process as obviously many rights were violated!
10. 2011-04-06 09:09  
Sounds like the SIU (Special Investigation Unit) in Hong Kong in the early 80's

Raiding bars, checking ID's, video surveillance... and the extremely suspicious "suicide" of a senior expat police office with apparently 5 bullets in the head.....

Luckily they threw Queen Vics decrepit law out and the other queens can move in peace now
Comment edited on 2011-04-06 09:12:37
11. 2011-04-06 10:09  
China gay community should have as many as possible associations, when things happen, just helping one another, should start in this way first...i think. then become stronger and bigger yours' power, media will start listen to you, government and police will also senses that gay is not easily bullied in stereotype.
12. 2011-04-06 11:30  
my boyfriend was there and there was pornagraphic dancing going on, its Shanghai and gay life here is really prudish, so conspiracy theories are flying off the hook now

but this story is now getting some play from the New York Times

personally, I think the only person who needs to get arrested is the owner and the bar tender there for over charging on drinks and making a very shitty MoJito

I have never seen such a mediocrite place get so much publicity

Another one of the series of Fridae famous stories on gay men getting arrested at shitty bars that no one ever goes to, better to go to D2 guys, better prices, better drinks, better looking people over all quite honestly
13. 2011-04-06 11:57  
"shoved...into a minivan that whittled them away." That must have been quite a sight!
14. 2011-04-06 12:10  
2 questions for #12. What is considered "pornographic dancing"? and If a straight bar had "pornographic dancing" do you feel it would have been raided and clients arrested? Before you respond with a knee jerk reaction keep in mind this is Mainland China we are discussing where the rule of thumb is double standards.
15. 2011-04-06 12:21  
China is still China. It takes time to..... perhaps at least another 50 years to democracy. Be patient and keep fighting for your rights. That is the way to change the laws.
16. 2011-04-06 18:47  
Even if the dance was pornographic why is it that all the patrons were detained? Surely it should only be the dancer and the promoters/bar owners. Clearly the police were homophobic.
17. 2011-04-06 19:20  
The police were probably doing what they were told and they probably are 'homophobic.' Although I imagine cleaning out gay bars is another day at the office. I haven't seen many members of the CCP Poliburo at the Mardi Gras film festival in Sydney recently. Chinese law has provisions dealing with what can be translated a 'hooliganism.' Most legal systems have public order offences. The Chinese state/political/legal system (you know the people in black cars) are terrifically keen on public order and if you are a police officer who enjoys stepping on someone's head they have great public order laws. Suing the police at the best of times is difficult. Sticking to works of fiction may be a better idea for the 'out' writer than a class action against the Shanghai police.
Comment #18 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-06 21:13
19. 2011-04-06 21:36  
Any of u have been to china and clubbing ? i mean srsly?

Police Raid clubs to eliminate the drug use and prostitution in China
no matter gay or straight bar. Some gay bars have more straight than gay ppl.

Why everyone focus on the "Gay" rather than the "Non-Gay" part?

Comment #20 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:52
Comment #21 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-07 00:06
22. 2011-04-07 02:00  
I think it would have been better use of the police to look for Ai Weiwei, seeing as the Chinese Government seem to have lost him, after grabbing him as he prepared to leave the country, something which even small, insignificant countries like Ireland - not a traditional 'enemy' of China, like America/Britain - is writing and asking about.

So, you know, perhaps the Chinese police could look under a few beds, or inside a few wardrobes, or something, to find out where Weiwei's been lost, rather than grabbing people without charge who were doing nothing illegal at a gay bar.

If it helps, I've got a torch or two that they can borrow to look around the place, while Lots of countries and governments, and political, arts, human rights and civil liberties groups all over the world wonder how the "Where's Weiwei?" game will finish...
Comment edited on 2011-04-07 02:05:17
23. 2011-04-07 07:08  
I was around years ago when the TASTY Raids happened in Melbourne, and the Gay Community Sued the Police under a Class Action, Created BIG Media Stories and in the end WON there case against the Victorian Police (Australia, Melbourne).

The Victorian Police have never raided a Gay Bar since they were sued, and lost money from there Police Budget being payed to LGBT Community Members

So sueing does work!!
Comment #24 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-07 13:51
Comment #25 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-07 16:57
Comment #26 was deleted by its author on 2011-04-07 16:58
27. 2011-04-07 16:56  
@No.12 OMFG instead of putting down the owner of the bar you should be sympathetic what happened to your family. You are being unethical of saying the owner and bartender should be arrested.

The issues here...is it really true that there's pornographic dancing going on or just the other bar competitor called the police and exaggerating the statement? oohhh i see why you're being grumpy because your boyfriend is watching pornographic dance isn't it?

We are being bullied, insulted and disrespected because of our gender. I know this is China we don't commit crime, people go to the bar to meet people with the same feather.

I am hoping that the owner and bartender will be freed and get justice for being detained by authorities. " we should fight for our right".

Again NO.12 be proud of being GAY and help your family and not dumped them!!
28. 2011-04-08 09:54  
Hi its No.12, if anyone needs any help getting out of jail in Shanghai I'm an expert these days, call me, I know how to tactically deal with the Shanghai police, I don't think this is a gay or straight issue, porngraphic dancing is equally being cracked down on many venues in Shanghai, heck I get calls from straight friends all the time who get arrested, also if you do get arrested do you know you can call Element Fresh and they will even deliver you express food while you are in jail?

I am gay and I have never been arrested and the cops are actually really nice and I have great friendships with a few.

So guys don't go to seedy unlicensed bars that look like they are breaking the fire codes and under paying their gay go go boys to do acts that are against the law. Be respectiveful of the laws. Even the straight/ racy kinda gay famous Pervert Party knows how to tastefully push the envelop but stay within the limits.

The worst part of this is if you are Mainland Chinese it goes on your record and employers can see it so its permanantly a part of your human file.

Instead there are so many better places to go and meet quality guys and have quality friendships and good conversation like D2, Shanghai Studio, and a really few cool lesbian bars.

By the way, why not more stories on police raids on lesbian bars?

Gosh, the Shanghai Police and nothing compared to the Gay fashion police active and flapping their tongues in Shanghai.

Also, can't someone fact check Kenneth Tan's lousy reporting and do interviews with people there. Gosh, I will donate my boyfriend's camera phone.
29. 2011-04-08 12:29  
@vercoda - '"Where's weiwei" - love it.

Wasn't at all surprised to hear about the police action, the possibility of rival bar owner involvement, or the fabrication of 'evidence' - it is Shanghai after all. Pleasantly surprised by the anger it has caused, the coverage it's getting and the possibility of real protest.
30. 2011-04-09 03:29  
China always tells the world that all Chinese citizens have full human rights and equality, so yes, please go with the court action! It is your right as a Chinese citizen.
31. 2011-04-09 08:37  
"So sueing does work!!" ...stupid comment ...china does not exist in the same legal paradigm as does Victoria in Australia, China is a communist dictatorship, Australia exists under the pretence of being a secular Democracy and there for MUST at least portray the veneer of having the rule of law and yes people do have successes, but under neath the country is as corrupt and it's politicians and judiciary as inept as many others
32. 2011-04-09 08:49  
The evidence is conflicting. The article does not state whether other gay bars in Shanghai were raided by the police.

Given what I've read, and if I were a juror, I would have to side with the police on the raid and shutting down of the bar, but not on jailing of the patrons or the alleged inhumane treatment of those arrested.

Here is my conclusion: The police squad was responding to a complaint that was presumably legitimate. If the owners of this new club were bending the rules to allow a go-go dancer to reveal a bit too much dick & ass when such action is presumably prohibited by law, then they ought to be blamed for subjecting their patrons to the risk of being arrested by the police.

Comment edited on 2011-04-09 08:59:29
33. 2011-04-09 09:21  
Incidentally, even the State of California prohibits indecent exposure:

"California Penal Code 314 PC prohibits 'indecent exposure'. [footnote reference omitted] And while violating California's "indecent exposure" law may not seem like a very serious offense, its repercussions can be devastating. In addition to fines and incarceration, a Penal Code 314 PC conviction subjects you to a lifetime duty to register as a California sex offender."

See http://www.shouselaw.com/indecent-exposure.html
34. 2011-04-09 10:18  
It's horrific what is happening in China. Very sad as human rights abuses have spiked since February and the fear that civil unrest will spread.
35. 2011-04-09 16:55  
#31 "China is a communist dictatorship"
A dictatorship indeed, but about as communist as... my arse, pardon my French.
Mao Tse-Tung was the last and bloodiest Chinese emperor with a craving for power on a scale totally unprecedented. One cannot but wonder how long it will take for the world and China itself to acknowledge that he was nothing but the biggest, most horrifying mass murderer and culture-killer humanity ever produced, all for the sake of enjoying, displaying and keeping his absolute power.
His cunning manipulation of communist ideas was strictly self-serving, tactical and cynical. A political genius if anything. In his poor tormented country he implemented NOTHING of old Marx's actual dream, nor did he ever mean to. All he did was put a label of Château Yqem on a bottle of vinegar, for which a shameful number of western "intellectuals" were foolish enough to fall (Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre among others, to their eternal shame).
When I see his face on Chinese currency it gives me the creeps. Hitler's nightmarish face would certainly be on European banknotes nowadays if that unspeakable beast had won the war.
If you win, you're right, that's what politics are all about. Kind of like when American marketing gurus explain to us that a film is good just because it sold millions of tickets.
So Mao's China is still called "Communist China" even by it's detractors. Oh the irony of it...
Mao did win a war - against his own people that is, and as a result, this once great nation and culture are still paying, brainwashed as the Chinese are by eight destructive decades of "maoism" - which ought to be pronounced "me-ism".
Comment edited on 2011-04-09 21:44:13
36. 2011-08-12 15:19  
really, do the police, and everyone else a favor....and put the police to sleep. like you do with your dog when he's old and sick.

and then let's do the same with the rest of the government.

p.s. #35......China absolutely is a communist dictatorship. there has been no progress, no opening, no anything since 1949....now it is merely covered up with starbucks. and it's going to stay that way while there are communists in the government.

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