Tags: gay | pageant | China | police

China Police Block First Gay Pageant

Friday, 15 January 2010 11:09 AM EST

BEIJING — Beijing police blocked China's first gay pageant Friday shortly before it was to start, organisers said, stopping an event billed as heralding a new Chinese openness about homosexuality.

Organisers said police arrived at the upscale restaurant and club where the Mr Gay China contest was to be held and told them they did not have the proper licence.

The sudden cancellation came despite considerable pre-event media coverage this week, even in China's state-run press, that had touted the pageant as a coming out for Chinese gays.

"Its a disaster. I'm full of disappointment. I thought the government was becoming more and more tolerant," said Jiang Bo, 29, a contestant from Sichuan province in southwestern China.

"They were making a big step. The whole world was thinking China was doing a very good thing. But now I think everybody will be disappointed."

Contestants in the pageant -- which was to have included an underwear segment -- were to vie for the right to represent China at the Worldwide Mr Gay pageant in Norway next month.

"Police said we didn't have the proper licence," said Ryan Dutcher, one of the organisers, who said they were still trying to negotiate with police late on Friday to let the event proceed.

"I'm very disappointed but I can't say I'm very surprised."

"(Police) came here just before the event. We didn't have any advance warning," he added.

Participants and organisers had hoped the contest would help underline what many have said are growing signs of acceptance of gay men and women in China, where homosexuality has long been viewed with shame.

Homosexuality was a crime in China until 1997 and it was officially considered a mental illness until 2001. Since then, however, an increasing number of visible gay and lesbian events has taken place.

The cancellation left about 150 attendees -- a large portion of whom were media covering the event -- milling about in confusion around a deserted stage with a runway as organisers dismantled sound systems and other equipment.

A man in plainclothes who said he worked for the government circulated among the crowd, asking people to provide their identification. He declined to further identify himself or to comment when asked why the event was halted.

But Wei Xiaogang, 33, a gay man who was to have acted as one of the judges, told AFP: "In my opinion, it had something to do with the issue of homosexuality."

"I feel very sad. I almost cried."

Dennis Sebastian, Asia representative for the Worldwide Mr Gay pageant and a Philippine citizen who flew in for the China competition, said that "even bad publicity is still publicity."

"(China) might not be able to send a representative this year but I still think they'll find a way. You can't keep this underground for a long time," he said.

Although many gay people say the situation in China has improved over the past few years, especially in big cities, they typically say it remains difficult to come out to their friends and family.

One problem for China's gay community lies in the nation's one-child policy, which makes parents rely on their only child to marry and produce grandchildren.

According to Chinese experts cited in press reports, there are an estimated 30 million homosexuals in China, two-thirds of them men.

Still, there had been recent hopeful signs for the gay community.

Last June, China's first gay pride festival was held in Shanghai, albeit discreetly and with some events cancelled at the last minute by authorities.

Last month, China's first government-backed gay bar opened in the tourist town of Dali in southwestern Yunnan province, after a three-week delay sparked by intense media attention, in a bid to boost HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

And on Wednesday, the state-run, English-language China Daily ran a front page story on what it called China's first publicly "married" gay couple that included a photo of the two men arm-in-arm at the ceremony.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, 15 January 2010 11:09 AM
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