'No drugs and no being gay': Backlash over tycoon Ren Zhiqiang's advice to daughter

Ren's parenting advice comes under public scrutiny after his newly released autobiography scaled the bestseller lists all over the country

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 11:42am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 4:08pm

China's real estate tycoon and outspoken blogger Ren Zhiqiang seemed to have rubbed the nation's gay community the wrong way by bluntly advising his daughter to "refrain from doing drugs and practising homosexual acts".

Ren's advice to his daughter, who at the time was turning 18, came under public scrutiny after his  autobiography Elegant Ambition, scaled the bestseller charts in bookstores all over the country.

"I only asked two things from my daughter," Ren wrote in the book, "Don't do drugs and don't engage in homosexual acts. I am selfish and want my grandchildren.

"But otherwise, she can do whatever she wants," Ren added. "What matters the most for parents is granting our children freedom and happiness."

Yet Ren's message baffled gays and lesbians in China, who called the advice wrong and misleading.

"You are gay, or you are not - you can't choose," A Qiang, a worker with Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China, a Guangzhou-based grass-roots organisation that promotes LGBT rights and helps gay parents.

Volunteers at PFLAG, determined that Ren needed to be educated, set out to mail him a pamphlet called  "Understanding Gays" last week. It was yet to be delivered as of Wednesday, according to its online tracking status.

Guo Yujie, a mainland writer and LGBT rights activist, also lashed out at Ren in her newest column titled "If Ren Zhiqiang's daughter were gay".

"Parents in China tend to think it's OK if other people's children are gay -- but it's a firm 'no' when it comes to their own children," Guo wrote.

Guo questioned how Ren would be able to grant his daughter "freedom" if she is not even free to act on her own sexual preferences in the article.

"But it's a good thing that Ren brought this up- at least he recognized it," Guo told the South China Morning Post in a phone interview on Wednesday. "[The attention his comment generated] also increased the visibility of China's gay community."

Guo suggested that high-profile public figures in China should pay more attention to sex issues. "These topics are significant and tend to impact everyone, not just gays," she said.

"For instance, more and more single women now want children, and at one point we need to change our laws so their children will have hukou."

On Weibo, many said their parents held similar views with Ren when it came to imposing their will on their children.

"Most Chinese parents are like, 'As long as you don't pursue your freedom, we will not intervene your freedom,'" a microblogger wrote.

Ren Zhiqiang could not be reached for a comment on Wednesday.

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