Beijing LGBT Center shuttered as crackdown grows in China
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — An advocacy group that also served as a safe space for the LGBTQ community in Beijing became the latest organisation to close under a crackdown by Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government.
“We very regretfully announce, due to forces beyond our control, the Beijing LGBT Center will stop operating today,” read a notice posted on the centre’s official WeChat account Monday night.
Beijing LGBT Centre did not respond to an email request for comment. The Ministry of Civil Affairs, which oversees nonprofits in China, also did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
The group’s shuttering marks a critical blow for advocacy groups that once had been able to be public about their work for LGBTQ+ rights.
“They are not the first group, nor are they the largest, but because Beijing LGBT Center was in Beijing, it represented China’s LGBT movement,” said one Chinese activist who requested anonymity out of fear for his safety. “In our political, economic and cultural centre, to have this type of organisation. It was a symbol of the LGBT movement’s presence.”
The Beijing LGBT Center described its mission as evolving; it started as a safe space for the community to host events. Then it became an advocacy group aiming to “improve the living conditions for the sexually diverse community.” They offered low-cost mental health counselling and published lists of LGBTQ-friendly health professionals.
Throughout its evolving mission, the centre hosted public speakers, film screenings and other events. Mr C, who keeps his real name secret to protect his parents’ privacy, was one of the centre’s featured transgender speakers. Mr C sued his former employers for letting him go after a 8-day trial period. He alleged it was because of his gender expression. They also hosted Liu Peilin, a transgender woman in her 60s, who spoke about being mocked online for dressing in women’s clothes.
Groups like the Beijing LGBT Center continued to publicly push for rights such as same-sex marriage even after a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists that started in 2015 after Xi came to power.
In the past few years, that limited space has shrunk further.
The well-known group called LGBT Rights Advocacy China, which brought strategic lawsuits to push for policy change and expanding rights, closed down in 2021. The group’s founder was detained and the organization’s end was a condition of his release, according to an activist close to the group who was previously based in China but has since relocated abroad. He declined to be named out of fear of government retribution toward family in China.
In face of the constant pressure, he said, sometimes groups are not able to openly inform the community they serve about politically sensitive events they held, which would cause confusion.
Before the crackdown, LGBT Rights Advocacy China built a network of lawyers who were sympathetic and willing to help LGBTQ+ people with legal issues. They had several visible nationwide campaigns pushing for policy changes, such as recognising same-sex marriage, through targeted lawsuits.