As we told you two times already, today is World Aids Day, and Yunnan officials have blown our minds with their uncanny ability to think outside the box in a move that promises to redefine “socialism with Chinese characteristics” — they’ve spent ¥120,000 in public funds to open up a “gay bar” in picturesque and touristy Dali, one of China’s top ten cities most afflicted by Aids.
The bar aims to promote HIV awareness and the practise of safe sex — all very noble aims — but what really got us was this quote from Zhang Jianbo, the bar’s non-gay manager, on the establishment’s very unique selling proposition:
“We might not even sell beverages in the bar. We will turn the bar into a tribune to offer lectures and training to gay people in order to reduce AIDS infections among them,” he said.
We say, way to go in reaching out to your target audience!
Let’s do a double-take now. What these guys are really hoping for is that gay people will magically appear in their government-office-disguised-as-a-gay-bar to receive enlightenment on safe sex.
Already, conservative members of the public have written in to newspapers saying that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and an “indirect endorsement of homosexual behaviour”.
AIDS activists have also expressed their skepticism:
Lu Jun, director of the Beijing-based Yirenping Center, an NGO dedicated to promoting public health equality, said, “I doubt how the government can protect the privacy of homosexuals who frequent the bar if it receives much publicity.”
However, Wan Yanhai, director of the Love, Knowledge and Action Organization, an NGO dedicated to protecting the rights of people with AIDS and public awareness of AIDS prevention, said there is a possibility that officials just want to collect money under the excuse of cooperating with NGOs to fight against AIDS.
“Some local governments’ work is only done symbolically,” A-Qiang said. “Gay people are more likely to hide themselves in the dark.”
Bing Lan, director of outreach organisation Aibai, also told Reuters that when the bar officially opens today for World Aids Day, there probably will be too many journalists and zero homosexuals.
Will gay people really go to a government-designated gay bar? Will the estimated 2,000 gay men of Dali come here to seek help after local health authorities have milked their new project for all the media coverage and photo opportunities that it’s worth? Why don’t local governments see established gay venues and NGOs as channels that they can work with in the fight against AIDS, preferring instead to crack down on them from time to time, and trying in vain to set up their own channels? We’ll be watching with bated breath to see what comes out of this project in the days ahead.
UPDATE: Numerous sources have confirmed that the launch of the “gay bar” today did not go ahead as planned. Volunteers, perhaps freaked out by the media exposure, have all disappeared, and the bar remains shut as you read this.