Photo: Shanghai Pride / Facebook
The organisers of Shanghai Pride have unexpectedly announced that the event is suspending its work after 11 years, fueling concerns about a growing LGBTQ crackdown in China.
“Shanghai Pride regrets to announce that we are cancelling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events,” the volunteer group said in a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday. The post was titled “the end of the rainbow.”
The organisation did not give a reason as to why the decision was taken but in a separate statement, co-founder Charlene Liu ominously commented that it was “to protect the safety of all involved.” The shock development adds to concerns that the authorities are increasingly restricting LGBTQ visibility and events.
“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,” one activist, who was fearful of being identified, told CNN.
“With things becoming harder and riskier, laying low may let you survive for now. But the purpose of our job is to raise visibility and educate the public – that’s the dilemma.”
The inaugural Shanghai Pride took place in 2009 and was the first mass LGBTQ event in mainland China. The 2019 edition included a Rainbow Bike Ride, film festivals, art exhibitions, an equality conference, and a Pride run.
“Pride has a lot of different meanings for different people,” said the organisers. “For us, it has always been about showing our community that not only is there nothing wrong with who we are, but that our identities and the people that we love are worth celebrating.”
They added: “We love our community, and we are grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together. No matter what, we will always be proud – and you should be, too.”
While homosexuality is legal in China, the government’s recent actions increasingly suggest that it prefers that the LGBTQ community remains undercover.
In 2018, the organisers of Mr Gay World announced they’d been forced to withdraw the 2019 contest from Hong Kong due to a clampdown by the Chinese authorities on LGBTQ affirming events and campaigns.
In July last year, China was among the countries to (unsuccessfully) oppose the renewal of the role of the UN Independent Expert against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Censorship of LGBTQ expression is also a reality in China. Broadcaster Mango TV famously erased references to homosexuality in actor Rami Malek’s 2019 Oscar acceptance speech when he was awarded for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.