In an e-mail reply to Xiang’s request for reasons why he could not register an NGO to advocate for the rights of gay people, the department said “there is no legal foundation for establishing a homosexual organization,” and “homosexuality is against China’s traditional culture and morality,” according to Xiang.
Xiang, 20, demanded that the civil affairs department retract its comment, and apologize to him in written form for “defaming” him for its comments on homosexuality and Chinese culture.
Xiang felt the court might not accept the case, but he is prepared for that. “We will sue the Civil Affairs Bureau of Changsha instead for their inaction in administration.”
“I hope we can be respected, I hope society can understand us,” Xiang said.
The local court will decide whether to hear the case in seven business days, said Yu Fangqiang, executive director of the Nanjing-based NGO Justice for All, who is keeping a close eye with the case.
A staff member of the department of civil affairs said they haven’t received a subpoena yet. “We will answer questions when we receive it. We will go through legal procedures,” he said in the globaltimes.cn report.
In the e-mail reply sent to Xiang in November, the civil affairs department said, “According to the Marriage Law, marriage must include one man and one woman, so the law does not approve of homosexual marriages or relationships.”
Yu said the reply is illogical. “Although the law forbids gay marriage, this has no relationship to whether a gay NGO is allowed to be registered.”
China has 30 million gay people, 2.3 percent of the population, estimated Professor Zhang Beichuan of Qingdao University, the Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao reported.
Hu Zhijun, the executive director of the Guangzhou-based support group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is a friend of Xiang.
He said homosexuals are discriminated against. “The government feels we are teaching people bad things,” he said.
Hu tried to register his organization in Guangzhou but failed. Guangdong is relatively open with NGOs, but officials there were told that gay NGOs are a sensitive issue, Hu said.
Xiang was arrested and detained for 12 days for organizing a parade without permission in Changsha in May last year, Xinhua reported.
Sociologist Zheng Yefu of the Beijing-based Renmin University of China slammed the Hunan government’s move. “I think the Hunan civil affairs department is oblivious to the bigger picture,” Zheng said.
Being gay in China was a crime until 1997, when the ruling Communist Party and the government introduced decriminalization in a bid to reduce the stigma. Before then, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder.
The tolerance now may be better but gay rights in China remains a relatively taboo subject.