The plaintiff, Yang Teng, holding a rainbow flag, a statue of Lady Justice, and a copy of the ruling outside the Haidian court.
China’s gay community scored a rare victory on Friday when a Beijing court ruled against a counselling centre in Chongqing in the nation’s first ever ‘gay conversion’ suit.
The landmark case was brought against the counselling centre by an ex-client who says the electroshock therapy he was subjected to left him traumatised. Chinese search behemoth Baidu, which accepted online ads promoting ‘cures for homosexuality’ by the counselling centre and other similar clinics, was also named as a defendant in the case.
In the ruling by the Haidian District People’s Court, the Chongqing Xinyu Piaoxiang Counselling Centre was found guilty of deceptive advertising and ordered to compensate the plaintiff 3,500 yuan for costs he incurred and to post an apology on its website for 48 hours. Baidu has also been ordered to remove the advertisement.
“Baidu respects the court’s decision,” Baidu spokesperson Kaiser Kuo told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re very glad to see justice served, and we share the opinion that unqualified therapy must be very vigilantly regulated. We hope Yang Teng will find some comfort in the court’s ruling.”
China’s de facto decriminalisation of homosexuality came in 2001, when it was struck off the official list of mental disorders, a position affirmed by the Haidian district court in its ruling.
What national ramifications the ruling by a Beijing district court will have remains unclear, but leading gay rights advocates in China have welcomed it. Wei Jiangang, executive director at the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, tells Shanghaiist the ruling is an important step forward in eradicating the practice of gay conversion therapy nationwide.
A check by Shanghaiist found that Baidu has since complied with the order and removed all online ads promoting ‘gay cures’.
Gay rights activists protesting against the practice of conversion therapy at an earlier hearing outside the Haidian court.