As in most of Asia, the LGBT community is largely invisible; when activist Zhang Yuhan tried to register the gay rights group he founded, “Changsha Comrades Center,” in Hunan province, he was denied on account of homosexuality being “against spiritual civilization construction” and “in violation of morals.”
Zhang said that the written reply he received from the Hunan Provincial Civil Affairs Department, dated November 29, was “the first to spell out such a stance in an official document.” He told Gay Star News, “It is discrimination against homosexuality.” He also runs the news site Hunan With Love (link in Chinese); the purpose of the Changsha Comrades Center would be to spread awareness and understanding of LGBT people.
Zhang explained, “If we can civilly register, it means first we will qualify for a legal document for charity organizations. There’ll also be tax exemptions and we’ll enjoy convenience in all our activities.” Unwilling to give up, he is planning his next moves—even though other provinces might choose to follow Hunan’s example.
The written refusal Zhang received cited China’s marriage law, stating that “same-sex marriage is not recognized and therefore the… establishment of [homosexual]social organizations have no legal basis,” and the requirement that “social organizations must abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations and policies, not against social morality,” according to the translation of an article in Hunan With Love.
The article points out that whether or not same-sex marriage is legal in China is irrelevant to their right to form a social group; it also says that “according to historical records… [dating back to]ancient times,” homosexuality has long been a part of China’s social fabric, too; there is even evidence of same-sex marriage during the Qing Dynasty.
Additionally, the article reminds that China has been undergoing constant reform over the last century, and yet nowhere in the constitution or laws has there been an official, clear statement that “homosexuality [is]contrary to social morality.” For that matter, thanks in part to the internet, “more and more people have begun to accept and understand the gay community, [and]the official media have gradually been formally [reporting on]the social life of the gay community.”
The rejection came in spite of a recent pledge from the government to promote social organizations. According to Gay Star News, Beijing’s local government “normally adopts a ‘don’t tell, don’t ask’ attitude when it comes to LGBTI issues,” but Chinese federal officials are understood to be considering where (or if) to allow LGBT groups to register.
Hunan is also one of the two provinces that detained LGBT activists for questioning at their International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) celebration.