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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

China Daily: First China Gay Pride praised by Chinese Govt Mouthpiece

The headlines of the China Daily, the Chinese government central mouth-piece today has a frontpage report on the first Shanghai gay and lesbian festival plus an editorial praising the event, calling it significant and proclaiming it a showcase of the country's social progress.
See http://pub1.chinadaily.com.cn/cdpdf/cndy/index.shtml for the pdf of the actual paper.

Can the Christian Right in Singapore still claim that they represent traditional values when most Asian countries, including China, Korea and Japan, do not criminalise gays and lesbians? The latest report from China shows government support for equal rights.

Here are the China Daily editorial and report:

Editorial:

Pride of tolerance
(China Daily)

The ongoing Shanghai Pride 2009, the largest festival of the gay and lesbian community on the Chinese mainland, is a good showcase of the country's social progress alongside the three decades of economic boom.

For long, most Chinese viewed the phenomenon of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals as weird imports from the decadent West. Even though there is mention of homosexual practices in ancient Chinese dynasties and literature, it was not until 1997 that gay sex was decriminalized in China. And, it was only in 2001 that homosexual behavior was taken off the official list of mental disorders.

Compared to the 1980s and early 1990s - when most gays and lesbians had to meet covertly in toilets, public bathhouses, parks and bus stations - the situation has changed dramatically.

In the last decade, gay and lesbian organizations, websites, blogs and bars, teahouses and clubs have mushroomed, catering to an estimated 30 to 40 million homosexuals on the Chinese mainland. Books and movies on homosexuality are published and screened. At Shanghai's Fudan University, classes on homosexuality always draw a full house.

Surveys in recent years have shown growing public acceptance and tolerance of same sex relationships. About 91 of the 400 respondents polled in major cities agreed that homosexuals should have equal employment rights, while 80 percent said that heterosexuals and homosexuals should be treated as equal.

This kind of acceptance and tolerance, according to well-known sociologist Li Yinhe who conducted the study, was higher among the upper strata of white-collar workers.

Shanghai, as one of the most open and progressive Chinese cities, has displayed this acceptance and tolerance with its increasingly active gay and lesbian community and the week- long festival, Shanghai Pride 2009.

While the more tolerant public attitude is heartening, many in the country's homosexual community still face great pressure from society, their families and employers.

At times and in some places, local police still harass gays and lesbians. In the vast countryside, homosexuality is still very much a taboo and considered an affliction. This only means that there is much to be done by the government, the media and the general public to promote understanding, acceptance and respect of the rights of gays and lesbians.

Shanghai Pride 2009 should be a source of great encouragement to the tens of millions of "comrades", as homosexual men and women are called in the Chinese mainland.

Meanwhile, the festival, though bereft of the massive street parade that is a feature of gay and lesbian festivals elsewhere, is also sending a strong signal to the 1.3 billion Chinese about greater acceptance and tolerance.

The Shanghai festival is still relatively low-key and on a smaller scale compared with similar events abroad. Yet it is an event of profound significance for the country and the world.

(China Daily 06/10/2009 page8)


Report:

Shanghai hosts first gay pride festival
SHANGHAI: The visibility of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community in China has been growing fast recently but its profile became more prominent this week as Shanghai hosted the country's first gay pride festival.

Although LGBTers will not take to the streets for a traditional-style parade, the festival is being hailed for making the community more "visible" along similar lines to the way it is in the United States, where President Barack Obama officially designated June the National Gay Pride Month.

The Shanghai event, which includes films, art exhibitions, panel discussions and theatre productions, began on Sunday and is set to finish on June 14.

The main attraction is likely to be an all-day party on Saturday, when organizers expect to attract at least 2,000 people.

Tiffany Lemay, the American co-organizer of the festival, said public parades in the city "aren't a possibility" - she took legal advice on the likelihood - but she said parades are not the only way to raise awareness and visibility.

"Shanghai Pride is a community building exercise. We hope to raise awareness of issues surrounding homosexuality, raise the visibility of the gay community, help people within our community to come out, and build bridges between the gay and straight communities," she said.

The event will be much larger than other gay events in China and will synchronize with the global gay pride movement, she said.

She said the first two days wrapped up with a "great response". Several hundred people attended the opening night of a movie screening and a panel discussion.

"I think gay culture in Shanghai has gradually come out of the closet, thanks to the expat community in the city," said a gay man surnamed Chen, who lives with his partner in Shanghai.

A netizen using the name Robert Copeland wrote on ShanghaiPRIDE's official website: "This is a very important step to make us 'invisible' people visible. Step by step, homophobia can be destroyed."



Organizers said people were coming to the festival from Beijing and Hong Kong among other places.

China has a homosexual population of 30 million people - 20 million gays and 10 million lesbians, said Zhang Beichuan, China's leading scholar in the field of homosexuality. The government puts the figure at between 5 and 10 million.

China removed homosexuality from its list of crimes in 1997 and, in 2001, recognized it as natural phenomenon rather than a mental problem.

As an American who's been living in Shanghai for six years, Lemay has noticed public attitude toward homosexuality in the city has changed a great deal in the past few years.

"This time around, when we floated the idea (of a festival) to different sectors of the community, we found that people were actually very open to the idea and so we went with it," she said.

Fang Gang, associate professor from Beijing Forestry University who wrote a book about homosexuals in China in 1995, said public tolerance of gay culture has grown "significantly" in China.

"When I wrote that book in the mid-1990s, I had a hard time finding and interviewing gays, and we talked in the toilet and psychological clinics in order to avoid discrimination. Now however, we see lots of bars and social organizations where you can find those people very easily."

But social discrimination against homosexuals still exists in terms of rights to education and employment, added Zhang, who said he has heard of instances of students being expelled from university for being homosexual.

Shan Juan contributed to the story in Beijing

(China Daily 06/10/2009 page1)

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