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World Shanghai Pride shuts down amid shrinking space for China's LGBTQ community

13:06  14 august  2020
13:06  14 august  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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Tenth Shanghai Pride Spotlights China ' s Changing Attitudes Toward Gay Lifestyles. “It’s always important to support Pride and the gay community ,” said participant Will, a marketing “I came out through Shanghai Pride , I met my wife through Shanghai Pride , so today is very emotional for us.”

Shanghai Pride, China's longest-running and only major annual celebration of sexual minorities, abruptly announced its effective shutdown on Thursday, in the latest sign of the authorities' increasing clampdown on civil society and LGBTQ rights in the country.

a young man holding a colorful kite: A participant holds a rainbow flag after taking part in a Pride event in Shanghai on June 17, 2017. © STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images A participant holds a rainbow flag after taking part in a Pride event in Shanghai on June 17, 2017.

In an open letter posted online, titled "the End of the Rainbow," the organizers recalled Shanghai Pride's humble origins as a one-off small community event in 2009, and its steady growth into a monthlong celebration -- featuring not just dance parties but also athletic contests, art exhibitions, film screenings, job fairs and themed talks -- attended by thousands of LGBTQ people and their allies over the years, with other special events scheduled year-round.

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Queer China . Community Organization. Pride Art 2020 ”Perspectives: from the community and allies,” is not only a collective statement of the LGBTQ community , allies, and supporters, but also an expression of their acknowledgment and point of view of self, relationships, objects of different kinds

Shanghaipride 上海骄傲节, Shanghai , China . 1.7K likes. ShanghaiPRIDE, founded in 2009, is an annual festival that celebrates diversity . LGBTQ community members from around the world share their feelings about virtual Pride 2020 celebrations, the ongoing fight for equality and what Pride

Then, with regret, they said they were "canceling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events" without giving a reason.

A person not associated with Shanghai Pride, but with knowledge to the situation, told CNN on Friday that the all-volunteer team had been facing mounting pressure from local authorities, to the point of where it was disrupting their day jobs and normal lives.

The organizers alluded to this in a separate Thursday note to supporters and partners seen by CNN.

"The decision was difficult to make but we have to protect the safety of all involved," they wrote. "It's been a great 12-year ride, and we are honored and proud to have traveled this journey of raising awareness and promoting diversity for the LGBTQ community."

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ShanghaiLGBT is a community of LGBT and allies in Shanghai , China . This webinar will provide space for Out & Equal and ShanghaiPRIDE to connect with partners across China . With a focus on showing solidarity, providing motivation and encouraging connection as we push forward in our

Shanghai Pride ( Chinese : 上海骄傲节; pinyin: Shànghǎi jiāo'ào jié) is an annual LGBT pride event that takes place in Shanghai , China . It was first held in 2009 and was significant in that it was the first time a mass LGBT event took place in mainland China .

CNN has reached out to the Shanghai government for comment.

Shrinking space

Gay rights advocates say they are stunned and saddened by the news, which came not long after this year's Shanghai Pride, successfully held offline in mid-June despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many activists contacted by CNN on Friday declined to be interviewed or speak on the record, having seen this negative development in China's largest and most cosmopolitan city.

"The public gets to see the visible and impactful aspects of what we do, but they can't imagine the difficulties we face behind the scenes -- I think Shanghai Pride is no exception," said the head of one national LGBTQ rights advocacy group, who requested anonymity for fear of government reprisal.

"With things becoming harder and riskier, laying low may let you survive for now," he added. "But the purpose of our job is to raise visibility and educate the public -- that's the dilemma."

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First call for Pride 12! If you are a passionate soul, looking to exp and the awareness of LGBTQ + in Shanghai , sign up to volunteer now! # shanghai #volunteer # LGBTQ See more. It' s a true testament to the love and resilience of the LGBTQ + community and allies in Shanghai and around the world.

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Homosexuality is not illegal in China and, in 2001, the authorities removed it from an official list of mental disorders. But experts and activists say LGBTQ people still face persistent discrimination and prejudices from the Chinese government and public. And despite last year's legalization of same-sex marriage in the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, there is little prospect of the mainland following suit in the foreseeable future.

A visitor attends this year's Pride Art Opening at Polar Bear Gallery in Shanghai. © Courtesy Shanghai Pride A visitor attends this year's Pride Art Opening at Polar Bear Gallery in Shanghai.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has increasingly stressed the ruling Communist Party's absolute control over every aspect of society, squeezing out the already-limited presence of non-governmental organizations. Some also suspect a more direct link between the crackdown on LGBTQ rights and top officials' worldviews, which for many were shaped during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and '70s, when authorities attempted to purge any "non-socialist" elements -- including homosexuality -- from Chinese society.

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Shanghaipride 上海骄傲节, Shanghai , China . 1.7K likes. ShanghaiPRIDE, founded in 2009, is an annual festival that celebrates diversity . We at ShanghaiPRIDE would like to extend our deepest gratitude to our community and allies for the outpouring of support we received this year.

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Since 2016, Chinese censors have banned portrayals of what they see as "abnormal sexual behaviors," including gay relationships, in TV and online shows. Most media and businesses in China have long stayed away from the subject to avoid running afoul of government restrictions -- but Shanghai Pride was able to attract some commercial sponsors, both local and foreign, during its run.

Unlike Pride celebrations elsewhere in the world, Shanghai Pride never held major street parades. Most of its events remained indoors -- in bars, restaurants and foreign consulates. Despite the low-key approach, one of the organizers has described to CNN the constant uncertainty in planning events, including last-minute venue changes for art exhibitions due to official demands.

a group of young people playing a game of football: Participants in Shanghai Pride pose for pictures in front of the financial district on June 13, 2015. © JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Participants in Shanghai Pride pose for pictures in front of the financial district on June 13, 2015.

"It's really part and parcel of organizing Pride every year," said Charlene Liu in 2019. "We have had similar issues (in the past), and we always have to have a plan B or plan C."

Even following a smooth opening at a different gallery, Liu said officials ordered that some of the art be taken down with little explanation.

"Tremendous sense of loss"

Among the artists showing work at the Pride exhibition last year was Yang Yiliang, who incorporates Chinese folk art and other traditional influences into his LGBTQ-themed paintings. The 29-year-old artist from central China has said finding domestic venues willing to display gay-themed artwork remains a daunting task.

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"I feel a tremendous sense of loss," he told CNN on Friday, when asked about the end of Shanghai Pride, which again featured his work in this year's art exhibition. "They've always given me so much encouragement as well as exhibition space -- they've been motivating my creations."

"I hope this loss is only temporary," he added. "I'll keep painting."

His determination is echoed by others, too.

"Doing what I can stops me from falling into a sense of helplessness," said the gay rights activist who requested anonymity. "Doing nothing will only make me feel more hopeless."

"Don't ever attach yourself to a person, a place, a company, an organization or a project," Liu, the Shanghai Pride organizer, posted a favorite passage on her social media account. "Attach yourself to a mission, a calling, a purpose only -- that's how your keep your power and your peace."

Runners in the 2016 Shanghai Pride Run make signs with their fingers while wearing rainbow shoelaces at the start of the race. © JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Runners in the 2016 Shanghai Pride Run make signs with their fingers while wearing rainbow shoelaces at the start of the race.

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