Up until yesterday, it’d been smooth sailing for Shanghai’s first Pride week. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the festival, a celebration of gay pride and social tolerance, ran into some problems with the authorities. Officials from a Shanghai commercial bureau visited and warned the owners of two venues that they would face “severe consequences” if they failed to cancel the events that were to be held there.
At 4pm on Wednesday, officials visited Kathleen’s 5, which had plans for two film screenings, and ordered them to cancel the events because they lacked the proper film screening license. The films they’d intended to show were “s/he,” about a young girl’s sexual identity crisis, and “Destination Shanghai,” about the city’s sex trade.
Jeffrey Tang, the event manager of Kathleen’s 5, was there when the officials from Shanghai Industry & Commercial Administration Bureau arrived yesterday. “They told us the reason for the cancellation is that we don’t have any entertainment licence, which is true, but we have never had any problems with cancellations before. Although, we have never screened any movies before, we’ve had corporate and business events, and also DJ’s playing,” said Tang. When asked if this was related to the Chinese authorities’ sensitivity regarding LGBT issues, Tang replied, “Of course it’s somehow related. China has too many laws, and people often go around them. The police often choose not to use the law, but if there’s something they don’t like, they choose to use it.”
Similarly, authorities visited Barefoot Studios, which was supposed to host the “The Laramie Project,” a play about gay hate crimes in small town America—and told warned them not to hold the event. Furthermore, one of today’s Pride events, the Open Bar at Shanghai Studio, was also canceled, though organizers say this was the venue’s own decision.
Despite these cancellations and setbacks and the associated jitters, much of the show will go on. The organizers are busy finding new venues for some of the cancelled events. Co-organizer Hannah Miller tells us that The Laramie Project will find a new venue and run next Friday instead. Of all these setbacks and minor brushes with the authorities, Miller said “of course we’re disappointed, but it’s true we didn’t have a license. But the overall feeling is still positive and we’re still feeling optimistic. We’ll wait and see how the rest of the week goes.”
Shanghaiist tried to get in contact with both commercial bureaus who cancelled the events to hear their side of the story, but apparently “no one who knows anything about this is here today.”
You can also read other links to this story from the BBC and the Shanghai Daily.