Gay groups have called for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in China to boycott movies by award-winning actress Lü Liping (吕丽萍) and her husband, director Sun Haiying (孙海英), after the former kicked up a maelstrom of debate on Sina Weibo for expressing support for the homophobic sentiments of a Chinese pastor in Rochester, New York decrying the legalisation of same-sex marriage by the New York State Senate.
It all began when Pastor Feng Wei (冯伟) of the Victory Baptist Chinese Mission of Rochester said in a tweet on Sunday: “Last night, the New York State Senate legalised same-sex marriage. This is the sixth state in the U.S., and the largest one so far, to do so. May God have mercy on this land which is falling into depravity every day! Even if some day, the law makes it illegal for me to speak against homosexuality, I will continue to preach: Homosexuality is sin. God loves sinners, but he hates sin! Believe in Jesus, gain victory over your sin, and move from Death to Life.”
The heretofore unknown pastor in New York might have remained a nobody in mainland China if not for the enthusiastic retweet by Lü Liping, winner of the Best Actress Award at the 2010 Golden Horse Awards, to her 125,000 followers together with the comment: “弟兄姐妹转起来！” or “Retweet this, brothers and sisters!”
This was subsequently followed by another retweet of the pastor’s posting of Romans 1:26-27, one of several anti-gay “clobber passages” long favoured by Christian traditionalists.
The boycott has been led by the Guangzhou-based Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China and ShanghaiPRIDE. Said Ah Qiang of PFLAG China who spearheaded the boycott, in a statement to the press, “Homosexuality is not against any law in China. As a public personality, Lü Liping should not be passing such irresponsible comments. Her comments will only add to the discrimination faced by the LGBT community and exacerbate what is already a tough environment for sexual minorities in China.”
This is not the first time that gay activists in China have called out Lü and her husband Sun Haiying, both proud born-again evangelicals, for their homophobic comments. In 2007, Sun was severely lambasted by leading academics and activists for declaring homosexuality to be a sin “against humanity” and for comparing it to “one night stands, keeping of mistresses, wife-swopping and swinging”.
Openly gay director and critic Cheng Qingsong (程青松) joined the chorus of voices opposing Lü, “Are Sun Haiying and Lü Liping of the opinion that we should censor the gay chapters of the Dream of the Red Chamber? Are they going to yell at Pai Hsien-yung, Kevin Tsai, Stanley Kwan, Ricky Martin, etc that they are sinners? Will they also start decrying the sin of actors who have played gay roles, like Liu Ye, Qin Hao, Chen Sicheng, Hu Jun, Tony Leung, Sandra Ng and Vivian Chow? Do they want a global ban of Lee Ang’s Brokeback Mountain?”
Angry netizens have in return been tweeting anti-divorce Bible passages (eg. Luke 16:18) back at Sun Haiying and Lü Liping, calling the two an “adulterous pair”. Sun is Lü’s third husband, and Lü is Sun’s second wife.
As China opens up with an increasingly vocal Christian community emboldened by churches bursting through the seams, a clash between gay-affirming liberals attuned to a multicultural world versus conservative Christians seems inevitable in the People’s Republic.
Just last year, in a rare decision by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the anti-gay Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, Rev James Meeks, was allowed to preach alongside evangelist Luis Palau in the first gospel rally of its kind in China.
In the following month, Elder Fu Xianwei (傅先伟长老), the chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (三自爱国运动) and the highest-ranking official of the state-approved Protestant church, flew to Singapore to pledge closer ties to the Anglican Global South, an anti-gay grouping in the southern hemisphere that has threatened to break away from the Church of England.
Lü Liping, in a speech laden with biblical references, thanks God for giving her the Best Actress Award at the 47th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei: