Ac­tivist for gay rights sues af­ter NGO re­quest de­nied

He says or­ga­ni­za­tion would raise aware­ness and fight so­cial stigma

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A gay- rights ac­tivist is ap­peal­ing Hu­nan provin­cial au­thor­i­ties’ de­nial of his re­quest to es­tab­lish an NGO to raise pub­lic aware­ness of gay is­sues.

The ac­tivist, who uses the alias Xiao Han, ap­pealed the Hu­nan civil af­fairs depart­ment’s de­ci­sion at a court in Chang­sha, the provin­cial cap­i­tal, on Wed­nes­day.

The court, in the city’s Kaifu district, said it will de­cide in seven work­ing days whether it will ac­cept the law­suit.

“We want the depart­ment to re­voke its writ­ten re­sponse, which said there is no le­gal ba­sis to reg­is­ter a ho­mo­sex­ual non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said Xiao, a 20-year-old gay man.

The depart­ment’s re­jec­tion, which came on Nov 26, said “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is not in line with China’s tra­di­tional cul­ture and spir­i­tual civ­i­liza­tion”.

The depart­ment also said there is no le­gal ba­sis to reg­is­ter a gay-rights NGO as gay mar­riage is not le­gal in China. Xiao dis­agreed. “That’s a ridicu­lous re­sponse, as we don’t call for le­gal gay mar­riage. That’s sheer dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay people,” he said.

“We just wanted to reg­is­ter our group the Chang­sha Com­rades Cen­ter as a le­gal NGO to bet­ter fa­cil­i­tate our op­er­a­tions, which aim to raise pub­lic aware­ness and fight so­cial stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.”

Le­gal sta­tus for an NGO would mean fa­vor­able poli­cies, in­clud­ing tax ex­emp­tion, ex­perts said.

It’s not rea­son­able to re­ject our ap­pli­ca­tion cit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay people.” XIAO HAN (ALIAS) GAY-RIGHTS AC­TIVIST IN HU­NAN

But “it’s hard to ac­quire the sta­tus granted by the civil af­fairs depart­ment”, said Xiao Dong, who heads an or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to con­trol­ling HIV/AIDS in Bei­jing’s gay com­mu­nity.

HIV/AIDS has been hit­ting the male gay pop­u­la­tion hard in re­cent years, and such or­ga­ni­za­tions could work with the health au­thor­i­ties to reach out to the com­mu­nity for in­ter­ven­tion ef­forts, he added.

“At least the author­ity should not dis­crim­i­nate against them,” he said, adding that ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is not il­le­gal in the coun­try.

Xiao Han echoed the sen­ti­ment, and said gay people should get equal treat­ment un­der the law.

“It’s not rea­son­able to re­ject our ap­pli­ca­tion cit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay people,” he added.

Zhang Zhiqiang, Xiao Han’s lawyer, said there is so far no le­gal def­i­ni­tion for gayrights group reg­is­tra­tion as an NGO.

“So the author­ity sim­ply re­ferred to ‘tra­di­tional cul­ture’ as an ex­cuse for re­jec­tion,” he said.

If the case is ac­cepted, “that gray area, not yet de­fined clearly, will be no­ticed and prob­a­bly ad­dressed later,” he said.

Xiao Han agreed, say­ing that he hopes the civil af­fairs author­ity can make it eas­ier for groups like his to reg­is­ter as le­gal NGOs. Feng Zhi­wei in Chang­sha con­trib­uted to this story.

ZHOU QIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Over 100 people take part in a demon­stra­tion in Chang­sha, Hu­nan prov­ince, in May to call for an end to dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay people. The rally had not been reg­is­tered with the po­lice, and the or­ga­nizer was de­tained for 12 days.

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