China’s longest-running gay pride festival in the eastern city of Shanghai has been canceled indefinitely, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Friday.
ShanghaiPRIDE, which organizes the event each summer, said in a statement posted to its official WeChat social media account on Thursday that it was “canceling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events.”
“[T]he decision was difficult to make but we have to protect the safety of all involved,” co-founder Charlene Liu said in a separate statement. “It’s been a great 12-year-ride and we are honored and proud to have traveled this journey of raising awareness and promoting diversity for the LGBTQ community.”
Though the exact reason for the event’s cancellation remains unclear, HKFP says that ShanghaiPRIDE had previously postponed a series of events this year due to the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that the pandemic may have been a factor.
Shanghai recorded 16 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking the eleventh consecutive day the city has recorded new coronavirus cases, according to the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times. The confirmed cases are “receiving treatment in designated hospitals and their 253 close contacts have since been put under quarantine,” the Shanghai Health Commission said Friday. “[The] Shanghai health commission claimed that the city has the ability to handle the current … cases and the public needn’t panic,” the newspaper wrote.
Founded in 2009, ShanghaiPRIDE held its annual gay pride celebration for nearly a dozen years. According to the group’s official website, its partners for this year’s June festival included the Consulate-Generals in Shanghai of Australia, Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands, plus corporate sponsors including the American computing giant Microsoft.
Despite the Shanghai festival’s success, the LGBTQ community faces mounting pressure in communist China.
Online content “is subject to heavy and often arbitrarily applied censorship, especially content depicting LGBT people. In recent years, censors have muted discussions on social media, banned homosexuality in films, and even prevented the sale of rainbow-themed items online,” according to HKFP. In 2017, CCP censors cracked down on authors of danmei, a genre of gay online fiction officially banned by the Communist Party. The censors offered digital currency rewards to people who reported incidences of the “vulgar” online content. In 2014, the CCP arrested over twenty of the genre’s Chinese authors.
“China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from a list of mental disorders in 2001. But same-sex marriages are still illegal, there are unspoken rules on censorship of LGBT topics, and discrimination runs deep in many aspects of society,” the South China Morning Post noted.
In 2017, a 38-year-old gay man in central China’s Henan province successfully sued a mental hospital in the city of Zhumadian over forced gay conversion therapy. The man, surnamed Yu, was forcibly admitted to a mental hospital in 2015 by his wife and other relatives where he was held against his will, diagnosed with “sexual preference disorder,” and forcibly medicated.
“In its relatively narrow ruling, the court did not weigh in on the practice of gay conversion therapy or account for Yu’s sexual orientation. The court said forcing Yu into a mental institution if he did not pose a danger to himself or others amounted to ‘infringing on the plaintiff’s right to individual freedom,’ ” the Associated Press reported at the time.