By Shannon Najmabadi
Wen Jiabao and Icelandic PM Johanna Sigurdardottir during the then Chinese premier’s visit to Iceland in 2012.
Iceland’s prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir arrived in Beijing on Saturday, kicking off a five day official tour of China.
Sigurdardottir is expected to meet with Premier Li Keqiang and sign a historic free trade agreement, hoping to improve bilateral trade relations between the two countries.
In an interview with Xinhua on Friday, Sigurdardottir emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of the agreement: while China’s economy could offer opportunities for Icelandic exporters and service providers, the prices of Chinese products could be lowered for Icelandic consumers.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971, China and Iceland have engaged in bilateral trade and economic cooperation, and Iceland is the first European state to recognize China’s full market economic status.
A business conference – during which representatives from Icelandic and Chinese companies will be able to meet – is also expected to be held during Sigurdardottir’s visit.
Trade is not the most interesting thing on the Icelandic leader’s agenda.
Sigurdardottir – the world’s first openly gay prime minister – and her wife have been invited to coffee by a group of Chinese parents whose children are gay or lesbian.
A Guangzhou-based grassroots organization that promotes LGBT rights sent the invitation to associates at foreign embassies and to some well-connected journalists. They hope it will eventually reach Sigurdardottir herself.
Mr Qiang, a worker at PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, says Sigurdardottir’s visit in itself is encouraging.
“Their official visit will be a real-life lesson in equal rights taught to our state leaders,” he said. “I am sure our officials are getting prepared now and discussing how to properly receive them.”
While China removed homosexuality from the official list of mental disorders in 2001, homosexuality remains a taboo topic in state media.
In 2006, China’s Ministry of Health estimated the number of sexually active gay males in China as between five and 10 million. However, Li Yinhe, a prominent sexologist and gay rights advocate in China, places the number of gays and lesbians in the country closer to 50 million.