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BBC Says China’s ‘Crackdown on Activism’ Is Making ‘Pride’ Culture Disappear

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 1, 2023
LGBT and Pride culture are disappearing from Mainland China because of the government's crackdown, BBC says
A file photo of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in May. BBC recently reported that a Chinese government “crackdown on activism” is putting Pride culture on the wane in the public sphere. (Image: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

While the majority of the western world turned “Pride” from a day, to a month, and then in Canada’s case—a season—the BBC laments that a “crackdown on activism” by the Chinese government is making pride culture wane.

“While celebrations were held around the world for Pride month, there were no major LGBT events in China,” BBC wrote in a June 27 article, noting that the largest event, “ShanghaiPride,” was canceled in 2021 and notably has not returned even after Chinese leader Xi Jinping eliminated the “zero-COVID” social credit system.

A co-founder of the group told the BBC it had “decided to take a break” after the Beijing LGBT Center was closed in May. The article stated the man has also left China.

Associated Press reported on the closure at the time that neither the organization nor the government would comment for its wire release.

BBC notes that a significant number of pride culture events and groups have been forced to shut down, which the outlet says is “raising fears of a crackdown on activism in the world’s second largest economy.”

Whether the decline of fanfare and total lack of pride month events is attributed to a crackdown on pride culture or simply Beijing attempting to maintain its version of social stability, the hits have been hard.

One pride culture group that operated on WeChat, something of a state-sanctioned messaging application under total Chinese Communist Party surveillance, saw its founder detained by the regime’s enforcement apparatus, with its closure stated as a condition of his release, BBC noted based on reports.

By July 2021, the majority of WeChat LGBT groups were terminated by censors. Some members of the groups complained when speaking to Reuters that “all of us have been wiped out.” 

AP paraphrased what one activist told it in its report, “Police often invited LGBTQ+ groups to ‘drink tea’ — a euphemism for unofficial meetings that police use to keep track of certain targets. That used to happen in public spaces, but started taking place in private spaces, such as directly in front of activists’ homes. Police also started taking activists to the police station for these ‘teas.’”

BBC quoted a pair of pride culture activists, who have also left China, as stating that “organisers have been detained, and their friends and family members have been questioned by the police.”

The crackdown comes despite homosexuality having ostensibly been legalized since 1997.

However, same sex-marriage is still not permitted in China, leaving homosexuals to come up with creative plans, such as marrying overseas, returning home and declaring themselves “legal guardians,” South China Morning Post stated in a 2020 article.

President Xi Jinping isn’t the only authoritarian leader to adopt a hardline stance against pride culture. In November of 2022, the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin began murmuring it would ban pride events and paraphernalia from the public sphere. 

By January, a law had passed and began being enforced targeting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” on penality of a 400,000 rouble fine ($4,500 USD~) BBC stated in an article that lamented restrictions on a “monster drag queen” that looks in their performance as something like a member of the band KISS named Danya.

“Since the law was passed, Danya has decided to leave Russia and move to France,” BBC said.

In 2019 during a press conference, Putin told reporters that while “it is true that we really have a very calm attitude towards the LGBT community…there are so many inventions nowadays. I also said in that interview that they invented five or six genders, transformers, trans…”

“The problem is that this part of society is aggressively imposing their view on the majority,” he stated.

Putin’s choice of words on the topic has become significantly more hawkish since the Ukraine War began in February 2022, attributing the pride movement to something of a method of social distortion warfare used by his Western adversaries.

Pride culture is not as well supported in some Eastern European countries as it is in North America.

In August 2022, Serbia’s orthodox Catholic groups took to the streets to march against the country holding EuroPride, what was described by some media outlets as “the largest LGBTQ+ event featuring a Pride parade on the continent.”

The event has also been referred to as an “Olympics” because it runs for multiple days and is hosted in a different European city each year.

Although the government backed and intended to support the event, large-scale demonstrations combined with reported threats of domestic terrorism forced the government to issue and enforce cancellation.

While Serbia is nestled near Greece and Hungary, on the other side of the Black Sea is Armenia, a country that became notable in Western media this month after parents belonging to the ethnic group came out in force to protest pride culture mandates at California schools.

The event was particularly notable because of both a large police presence and a fight that broke out between parents and what appeared to be an Antifa group dressed in black bloc who came to counter-protest.

As a result of the fight, Antifa and members of the “Revolutionary Communist Party” crashed a protest in West Hollywood later in the month focusing on the treatment of Armenians by its government in a disputed territory between itself and Azerbaijan, some Twitter videos stated.

The Chinese government snuffing out pride culture has been accelerating over the years. In 2021, some investigations found that while the Apple App Store censors Anti-LGBT apps in the United States, it actually censors pro-LGBT apps inside of mainland China.