Contestants in the cancelled Mr Gay China pageant.

An attempt to hold the first Mr Gay China pageant on Friday was blocked by police just minutes before the event was set to start.

According to the disappointed organisers, the authorities said that the event could not go ahead because they did not secure the correct license.

However, many suggested that official homophobia was the real reason for the event being shut down.

Contestant Emilio Liu told the Associated Press that, “It totally has to do with moral standards and culture. If most people can’t accept it, then the government won’t let it happen.”

The event, which was to take place at a Beijing club, was touted as representing China’s growing openness and acceptance of homosexuality.

“We are saddened that Mr. Gay China pageant has been cancelled. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience that [this] has caused you and your friends,” said the organisers, Gayographica gay PR, on their website.

Eight men aged between 24 and 30 were set to compete for the title. The winner of the pageant was to attend the Mr Gay World Pageant in Oslo, Norway in February.

“After a group discussion, the organizers and candidates all decided not to send a delegate to represent China this year,” the organisers said.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997 in China and was removed from the official Chinese list of mental disorders in 2001. It is thought that there could be at least 30 million gay and lesbians in China.

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