The following update from Beijing-based AIDS activist Wan Yanhai (万延海) is currently being circulated among gay and other AIDS-related online groups (proxy/VPN required) on the mainland:
Account of police raids targeted at LGBT in Beijing
First instance: in the second half of January 2008, the police in Chaoyang District visited the residence of a LGBT activist. They enquired about her ex-roommate residence permit, asked for her picture, and enquired about the nature of her job. The police made an appointment with the landlord and acted as if they were investigating the residence. They enquired about issues not exclusively related to her residence permit. At the same time, another LGBT activist received a phone call regarding a matter related to his residence permit. In the afternoon of 21 March 2008, the day after releasing the news about the signature exhibition of supporting homosexual marriage , the police paid another visit to this residence and enquired about the nature of her job, a LGBT website etc.
Second instance: on 9 March 2008, a popular LGBT night club in Beijing, called Destination, was visited by the police. The police said the club was too crowded. As a result, people’s access to the club was restricted and the music stopped. The club was shut down and resumed business only a few days after.
Third instance: in the afternoon of 17 March 2008, a number of police officers visited Dongdan Park, in the East District of Beijing. Public security officers and armed police carried out the interrogation at the park, taking away the gay people in park to the police station inside the park where more than 40 people were waiting to be enquired. The people taken away by the police were all requested to show their ID, and their details were checked on the computer. They were all requested to write their name on a white paper, and hold the paper with their names before their chest to be photographed. Some people refused to be photographed and released without being photographed. Some others, as a result of refusing to be photographed, and because their details were not found in the computer records, were taken to the police station for further interrogation. A gay volunteer of Aizhixing Institute was taken to the police station because police said that his name was not found in the computer records, and released after the lawyer of Aizhixing showed up at the police station. When the individuals were taken away, the police reported that a person was killed inside the park a day before, and everyone had to cooperate in the investigation. But after being walked to the police station, the individuals were not asked any question related to a criminal case.
In the following days, many people in the park were asked to show their ID. Every evening after 7, a police car drove into the park to inspect the surroundings. For a small imprudence, people would be taken away by the police. Later in the evening, the police would clear out the park. In the afternoon of 22 March, 2 young people were taken away by police officers as soon as they walked into the park.
Fourth instance: in the afternoon of 20 March 2008, more than 10 police cars visited “Oasis” club, the most popular gay bath house in Beijing. More than 70 people, including all the members of staff and clients were taken away. After more than 30 hours, in the early morning of 22 March, the clients of the house were released. But the members of staff were kept detained. In the early morning of 21 March, the police visited another Oasis bath house near Dongsishitiao Bridge, and took away all members of staff, but not the clients. At present, these two bath houses have been shut down. It was reported that at the same time, in another part of the city, another gay bath house was also shut down.
Fifth instance: one evening around mid March 2008, in one of the alleys of a gay park in Haidian District, the police conducted an interrogation among people strolling in the area.
Sixth instance: according to information from Beijing Tongzhi (LGBT) chat rooms, the police have detained over 80 male sex workers via those chat rooms in Beijing. A chat room announcement reads as follows: “these days, Beijjing is clearing out the city and carrying out a crackdown on sex work, the police has currently detained more than 80 sex workers, this website does not welcome people with illegal intentions, and hopes everyone works together to fight illegal behavior, thanks for your cooperation!”
Finally, in recent days, a gay bath house in Shanghai has been shut down. Evidence shows that this time, crackdowns are being carried out at national level.
We have also been told that the police “visit” to Destination in Beijing happened on the same evening that PinkHome in Shanghai was “visited”. In PinkHome’s case, several guys were arrested, but on what charges we don’t know.
Such a huge crackdown on gay-frequented establishments/spaces executed within such a short period of time has been unheard of in China, and therefore it is raising alarm bells with good reason. Gay life in China has been enjoying pretter much unfettered development over the last decade, so it could be that we’re at a point in time when the authorities see the need to rein in the unbridled growth. Are the crackdowns being executed as part of a larger “spring cleaning exercise” ahead of the Olympics so China would be able to project to the world its best image, whatever that means to the powers that be? Only time will tell.
Wan Yanhai is the founder of the Aizhixing Institute, and is one of the most outspoken AIDS activists in China. He was jailed in 2002 for a month on charges of leaking an internal government report on the blood-selling schemes in Henan Province which led to a huge spread of the disease. His latest detention was in 2006 after he accused government officials of “falling asleep” as the disease continues to spread and was forced to cancel an AIDS conference that would be attended by delegates from around the world. His fellow activist Hu Jia (胡嘉) was recently charged with subverting state authority, while his wife continues to be under house arrest.
Photo from cies.org