News / Asia

Gay Rights Activist Held in China

Activists march during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Changsha, May 17, 2013. The banner reads, "Homosexsuals are also ordinary people".
Activists march during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Changsha, May 17, 2013. The banner reads, "Homosexsuals are also ordinary people".
VOA News
A young gay rights activist was detained last week in the southern city of Changsha, following a rally organized by local groups to mark an international day against homophobia, his lawyer said.

The man, 19-year-old Xiang Yuhan, was taken into custody early Saturday after police came to his hotel room.

“He’s been put under administrative detention for 12 days on charges of organizing an illegal rally.  His mother is mentally ill and he looks after her.  We’ve asked authorities to cut short his detention,” said his lawyer, Lin Qilei.

Lin said his client is being held at the Changsha Detention Center.  In China, individuals can be held without trial for at least one month.

In the wake of recent milestones for gay rights around the globe, activists in China are stepping up efforts to promote the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and win more guarantees for basic rights.

In April, New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to legalize gay marriage, followed a few days later by France.  In the United States, 12 states and Washington, D.C., already approve same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to deliver a key ruling on the same topic.


Last week, at least 100 demonstrators took part in the rally in Changsha.  It took place on International Day Against Homophobia, a worldwide event coordinated by a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization based in Paris.  Marchers called for an end to discrimination against gays and increased guarantees of civil rights for homosexuals in China.

Fellow gay rights activist Ah Qiang, who also attended the rally, said he believes Xiang Yuhan was singled out because he is a prominent advocate for LGBT rights in the south of China.

Three other people were taken away by police at the same time and were freed a few hours later after questioning.

“He [Xiang Yuhan] was the organizer of the rally, he runs a community website for homosexuals and helped launch a similar event last year.  He is very active and wants to keep hosting the event in the future,” said Ah Qiang.

VOA was unable to reach authorities in Changsha for comment on the case.

Last week, similar demonstrations took place in several cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.  No other arrests have been reported elsewhere.

Organizers said the rallies have been peaceful and colorful, attracting the understanding and support of local communities.  Marchers sang, shouted slogans and handed out leaflets to amused passersby.  At Chongqing University, demonstrators organized a kissing competition off campus.  The event drew hundreds of onlookers and was widely discussed on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service.

Open letter

Civil rights lawyers also marked the day.  They signed an open letter, addressed to China’s Legal Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, asking for a revision of China’s marriage law to include gay marriage as a legal form of union.

“Gay couples still face much discrimination in China, due to the lack of a legal recognition of their union,” said Beijing layer Huang Yizhi.  Huang was a promoter of the petition. “For example, in Shanghai, homosexual couples are barred from purchasing a house because they cannot marry.”

Civil rights like the right to share properties, to inherit and adopt children, that are constitutionally guaranteed to all citizens in China, should also apply to homosexuals, reads the open letter.

“Recently another state in the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage and the debate is resonating around the world.  This is very encouraging for us,” said Huang. 

Some believe one of the first steps toward revising any sort of law in China was taken last week, when a court ruling in Hong Kong issued a landmark ruling regarding the definition of who is eligible to marry.

Hong Kong ruling

Last Monday, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeals stated that the Marriage Ordinance must include in its definition of ‘woman’ or ‘female’ that of a ‘post-operative male-to-female transsexual person.’  The ruling was a final response to a lawsuit filed by a transsexual woman regarding the established concept of marriage.

The court’s decision sparked controversy in Hong Kong, which is a special administrative zone of China.  Conservatives in Hong Kong fear the ruling opens the door to same-sex marriage.

Homosexuality is still a very sensitive topic in China, but is gaining more attention, even from state-run news organizations.

Earlier this week, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a study that said gays and bisexuals in China face widespread discrimination from employers and peers, and that discourages them from being open about their sexual orientation in the workplace.

Many fear that revealing their sexual orientation at work could hinder their career advancement, while others worry about the impact it could have on their relationships with their colleagues.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs