Monday, November 29, 2021

China LGBT rights group shuts down amid hostile atmosphere

TAIPEI, Taiwan (NWN) — An influential LGBT advocacy group in China that has led several legal cases pushing for greater rights is halting its work amid mounting restrictions on social activism.

LGBT rights advocacy China in an announcement on social media on Thursday announced the closure of all activities and the closure of its social media accounts.

“We are very sorry to inform everyone that Queer Advocacy Online will be closing all our work indefinitely,” the group said on WeChat, using the name of its social media account. It closed its accounts on WeChat and Weibo, two platforms widely used in China.

A member confirmed that all activities of the group have been stopped. The member, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, declined to say why. Group founder Peng Yanzi did not respond to a request for comment.

LGBT Rights Advocacy China worked across the country, emphasizing the rights of gay people and raising awareness of the community. It advocated same-sex marriage and fought against workplace discrimination By helping individuals prosecute their former employers.

While there are many other groups focused on helping LGBT individuals, LGBT Rights Advocacy is one of a handful that have focused on changing law and policy.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on Friday that they had dealt with 3,300 illegal social organizations, according to official Xinhua news agency. The ministry also shut down some 200 illegal websites and personal social media accounts that were not registered with any government entity.

It is not clear whether the group was shut down as part of a government campaign. The ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

The 30-year-old LGBT activist who knew the group’s founders and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the group mentioned they were in trouble a few months ago. Lawyers who had helped the group in the cases had also stopped their work then.

LGBT Rights Advocacy China was co-founded in 2013 by Peng and another activist AQiang, and focused its efforts on securing legal rights for LGBT individuals through strategic lawsuits.

One of his most high-profile cases came in early 2014, when Peng himself went undercover. For a facility that claimed it could “cure” homosexuality with electroshock therapy. He sued the company and won.

Challenging the law to make room for non-traditional families, the group often brought historical cases to court, and often helped to initiate public discussions on those issues.

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In April last year, he helped in a gay lawsuit for custody rights for his children after his partner took them and stopped communicating with him. She gave birth to one of two children. Under Chinese law, she could claim that she was the birth mother of one child, but wanted to fight for the right to see another. His case is still going on in the court.

The group helped a young woman sue textbook publishers for writing that homosexuality was a disorder in a high-profile case that gained national prominence and was reported by state media. She lost the case in February after years of litigation.

“Throughout the community, he gave us a lot of hope and guidance, giving everyone the confidence to go out there and do something,” said a 34-year-old man, who sued his former employer for discrimination in 2018 and won the group. the help of. He declined to be named for fear of reprisal, citing the current environment.

Homosexuality is not a crime in China, and in large cities, there is a vibrant social scene where LGBT individuals can socialize without fear or discrimination. However, restrictions on advocacy groups and online censorship have increased.

In July, WeChat shut down dozens of accounts run by university students and non-profit groups on LGBT topics.

One LGBT blogger, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal, said running an LGBT group is becoming increasingly difficult in the current circumstances, noting that WeChat and other social media platforms are removing related content.

Shanghai Pride canceled its annual event in 2020 and said it would not hold it without explanation after 11 years of operation.

Another well-known group, True Self, which often organizes programs to teach families how to accept their LGBT children, asks people not to mention the word “gay” in publicizing their events, which has led to Previously sued his employer for discrimination. “The scope for acceptance for sexual minorities is shrinking, it’s not the same as it used to be.”

He said pandemic restrictions also played a role in cutting down on the number of events for groups.

For now, the groups are struggling to operate within the constraints.

LGBT rights advocacy China said in its post, “There may be more uncertainties in the future, we look forward to the day when we can lift the clouds and see the light of day.”

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Associated Press news assistant Carolyn Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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