A pair of female students in Hubei province have stirred up anger online and on campus after a photo of them holding up a homophobic banner went viral on Chinese social media.
The banner reads: “Defend traditional Chinese ethical principles, uphold socialist core values, resist corruption from decadent Western ideas, keep homosexuality far away from the university campus.”
The photo was taken on April 16th on the sidelines of a basketball tournament at Wuhan’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST). According to Sixth Tone, it was posted to the QQ Qzone account of the university’s women’s basketball coach, Ling Bing, who captioned the post: “It’s the wish of the public, which I always bear in my heart.” The coach’s social media account also includes numerous other homophobic posts.
Ling appears to be trying to push his own views of homosexuality onto his players. The two students holding up the banner are both players on Ling’s team. A 22-year-old gay student at HUST told Sixth Tone that in the past members of the basketball team had bullied lesbian teammates.
“The women’s basketball team used to be disaster area for homosexuality,” one of students in the photograph wrote on her own QQ Qzone account. “But after our positive education and reform, there are very few gay people left on the women’s basketball team.”
An unnamed classmate told Sohu that while women’s basketball team members had shared homophobic posts on their personal social media accounts before, this was the first time that they had demonstrated their views out in public. “We all feel extremely angry about their behavior and feel like they don’t suspect the rights of minorities,” the student said.
The banner has also been condemned by Chinese netizens. “I support freedom of speech, but allowing people to say whatever they want can only lead to them exposing their ignorance and narrow-mindedness. Traditional Chinese ethical principles and socialist values, seriously?” commented one web user.
“Resist corruption from decadent Western ideas? You know, homosexuality was also practiced in ancient China? Their ignorance is astounding,” another Weibo user wrote.
Meanwhile, the school’s women’s basketball union has said that the banner does not reflect its views, but only represents the views of some players. The university itself has yet to respond to the controversy. Coach Ling and his players have also not responded to media requests.
Over the past couple of years, the university itself has developed a reputation for being “relatively” friendly to gay students, a nongovernmental worker at a Wuhan LGBT center told Sixth Tone. The school’s counseling center has sent out emails to educate students about LGBT issues and in 2012 the university’s former principal declared that there would no discrimination against LGBT students for their sexual orientation.
While homosexuality is becoming more accepted on Chinese university campuses, instances of discrimination continue. For years, one lesbian university student has been trying to take the Ministry of Education to court over homophobic content in government-approved textbooks she found at the library at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University, which still referred to homosexuality as a psychological disorder.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat