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Chinese activists brave arrest to 'stroll' for IDAHO

People voice their support for gay rights in small groups all around the country in defiance of the authorities
Some 80 people 'strolled' in Changsha's countryside to support gay rights
Photo by Rainbow China

With the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown on students around the corner, the Chinese government has been tightening its grip on various rights activists, including LGBTI ones.

Events that could get the greenlight from the authorities are now simply no go.

Activities slated for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) were called off in cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenyang, while the fourth edition of a two-day LGBT festival in Dalian did not open as planned today (17 May).

Xiang Xiaohan, the gay rights activist suing the Hunan government for barring his group from registration, was not free from the authorities’ grip either.

So much so that he had to put up a notice on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging site, to declare that ‘the 17 May Changsha pride stroll is neither anti-government, nor in violation of social order. It aims merely to speak up for the LGBT community in China on IDAHO.’

Although Xiang was also forced to forgo the leading role ‘amid pressure’, the Changsha stroll remained the spotlight of the day.

Some 80 gays and their families strolled on and sang the Chinese ‘gay anthem’ Couragealong the way, even as rain fell on the rainbow flags in their hands

‘I am proud to be gay,’ chanted the participants, according to Hong Kong-based Rainbow China.

Echoing them elsewhere in strolls were people from such cities as Shenzhen, Dongguan and Dalian.

In particular, a few girls held a kiss-in protest in different parts of Hangzhou against a recent ban on gay erotic fiction.

Xiang, the Hunan activist, was detained during last year’s IDAHO event. He was also repeatedly summoned by provincial police for questions ahead of this year's gathering.

Earlier in the month, a group of nine activists aiming to hold a seminar in Beijing on the legal procedures for establishing gay advocacy groups like Xiang’s were arrested altogether.

'I know the police have talked with gay activists in many places,' said Ah Qiang,  Director of PFLAG China, to Gay Star News.

'I don't know about the underlying reasons, but it is apparently not just intervention from local governments, but those from higher authorities.'

Gay relationships have been legal in the country since 1997, while hosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001.

However, nearly 10 percent of the LGBT community have considered trying 'conversion therapies' to 'treat' homosexuality or alter their sexual orientation, according to a report released yesterday.

The song Courage that participants sang in Changsha today:

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