China’s gay rights groups asked to pull out of Shenzhen charity fair

China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups not officially recognised

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 11:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 1:44pm

Several Chinese gay rights advocacy groups were asked to pull their display boards and brochures from a national charity fair held in Shenzhen over the weekend, said volunteers.

Workers at this year’s China Charity Fair, an event organised by the country’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and sponsored by the Guangdong provincial government, demanded LGBT rights volunteers to stop passing out pamphlets and pull their advertising from the event, according to a gay rights worker.

“They told us we are not registered with the ministry and therefore were not allowed to promote anything at the fair,” said A Qiang (not his real name), a senior worker at PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, a Guangzhou-based organisation that helps gay parents.

Volunteers obliged and stopped passing out educational pamphlets about the LGBT community, he said.

Another Beijing-based gay rights group, Beijing LGBT Centre, was also banned by the event organisers from passing out flyers, citing the same reason.

A lack of an official identity is nothing new for China’s gay rights groups.

A Qiang said he had been trying to register his group for years by making at least a dozen visits to local government, but all to no avail. An official once told him that no law in China says homosexual is “legal”, so they couldn’t possibly approve his request.

“I told him no law in China says it’s illegal, either,” he said. “But this didn’t work.”

In another meeting, one official suggested that he remove the word “homosexual” from the name he tried to register for the group, to which A Qaing flatly refused.

“If we had agreed to take the word out, we would be discriminating against the same people we are trying to help,” he said.

Like PFLAG, none of China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups is officially recognised by the country’s civil affairs department. While some organisations subsist on private donations from both home and abroad, others register themselves as non-profit arms of private companies and try to keep a low profile.

Yet tensions between LGBT groups and the government have increased in recent years as they have become increasingly visible and outspoken, leading to conflicts and in some cases arrests.

In May, activists in at least two Chinese cities were detained by police as LGBT rights advocates took to the streets across China to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

Meanwhile, the general public in China seems to have become more accepting of the LGBT community.

In March, more than 100 parents of gay and lesbian children submitted an open letter to delegates of China’s National People’s Congress, demanding marriage equality for their children.

Recently, a 90-year-old Chinese grandmother unabashedly supported her gay grandson in a video that later went viral. Despite criticism, it has earned her overwhelming support from all walks of society.