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Police shut down China’s first gay pageant

By Anita Chang
Associated Press / January 16, 2010

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BEIJING - Police shut down what would have been China’s first gay pageant yesterday an hour before it was set to begin, highlighting the enduring sensitivity surrounding homosexuality and the struggle by gays to find mainstream acceptance.

Organizers said they were not surprised when eight police officers turned up at the upscale club in central Beijing where the pageant, featuring a fashion show and a host in drag, was set to take place.

“They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures,’’ Ben Zhang said. Police told him he needed official approval for events that included performances, in this case a stage show. “I kind of saw that coming,’’ Zhang said.

Chinese police frequently cite procedural reasons for closing down gatherings that are deemed to be politically sensitive. Though the pageant did not have any overt political agenda, similar events in the past - such as a parade during the Shanghai Pride Festival last year - have been blocked by authorities.

“It totally has to do with moral standards and culture,’’ said contestant Emilio Liu, 26. “If most people can’t accept it, then the government won’t let it happen.’’

Zhang had said he hoped the pageant would raise awareness of homosexuals in a country where gays are frequently discriminated against and ostracized. Eight men were competing for the title and a spot in the Worldwide Mr. Gay pageant, to be held next month in Oslo.