The world's first openly gay prime minister has turned down an invitation from parents of gay children in China to chat over coffee.
Officials at the Embassy of Iceland in Beijing responded to the invitation on Thursday, after reading an open letter posted by a Chongqing mother. Due to her extremely busy schedule, the prime minister would not be able to meet with Chinese activists during this trip, said the embassy.
Icelandic PM Johanna Sigurdardottir, and her wife of 13 years, Jonina Leosdottir, will visit Beijing from Monday to Thursday, Xinhua said, quoting a BBC report.
A Qiang, a worker at PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, a Guangzhou-based grass-roots group, said it had sent an invitation to associates at embassies and some well-connected journalists.
Though the chance of meeting the couple in person had seemed slim, the visit itself wa seen as encouraging. "Their official visit will be a real-life lesson in equal rights taught to our state leaders," he said. "I am sure our officials are getting prepared now and discussing how to properly receive them."
Many comments were made about the visit on Weibo on Wednesday. "Will the wife be photographed together with Peng Liyuan [President Xi Jinping's wife]?" asked a blogger on Weibo.
"Let them demonstrate to our leaders the real meaning of 'human rights'," said another blog.
A Chongqing blogger, who is also the mother of a lesbian, posted an open letter to Sigurdardottir on her blog, praising Sigurdardottir's courage after sharing her own story.
"We were confused when our daughter told me she likes girls. But after the many times she took us to help groups for gay parents we have come to accept her. Now I am proud of my daughter and I talk to other parents who have a hard time with their children's sexuality," she wrote.
Then she added, "I've asked my daughter to learn from you and make a difference in the world. You have lived an exceptional and courageous life".
"On behalf of my family, we'd like to invite you and your wife to visit Chongqing and be guests at my house."
Despite the optimism online, Yu Shi, an activist at "Les Chengdu", a Sichuan-based lesbian rights group, said Beijing was unlikely to grant gays and lesbians equal legal rights in the near future simply because of the high-profile visit. "But it's still a good thing," she said, "At least this means our leaders are aware of the issue."
China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 but it remains a taboo subject in the official media.