A LGBT conference was canceled in Xi’an over the weekend with activists claiming that they were told by police that gay people were not welcome in the city.
The ill-fated event was organized by Chinese gay rights group Speak Out. At least 400 people were expected to attend the conference which was to feature speakers like Li Tingting, one of the “Feminist Five,” speaking out against discrimination and giving voice to the Chinese LGBT community’s concerns.
However, at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, nine activists were taken away by police and detained for 8 hours with no lines of communication to the outside world, according to a viral Weibo post from the conference’s organizers. The post states that during their lengthy detainment, the activists were questioned by police and told in no uncertain terms that “LGBT events can not be held again in Xi’an” and “Xi’an does not welcome LGBT events.”
This would certainly seem to be the case as the Speak Out 2017 event was effectively canceled even earlier on Sunday morning after the group failed to find a host venue with multiple venues backing out in the preceding days, including one late on Saturday night.
Organizers said that they had not encountered this level of opposition before. The group has been organizing events like this one in different cities around the country since 2014, including one that took place in Xi’an in 2015.
“They were very clear in telling us we couldn’t organize activities in Xian again, and that they didn’t welcome gays,” one of the organizers told Reuters.
According to the Global Times, an employee at the city’s public security bureau said that they were not aware of the situation, and “no one was available at the local government office for comment as it was a public holiday.”
The conference’s cancellation comes just after Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage last month, putting Taiwan on the path to becoming the first in Asia with marriage equality. It also closely follows the shutting down last week of China’s leading lesbian app, Rela, which was taken off the internet following its participation in an awareness event last month in which a group of parents of LGBT children gatecrashed Shanghai’s popular “marriage market” before being kicked out by police.
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