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July 15, 2010

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LGBT group meets at Expo

The event was almost canceled due to pressure from some government departments. The very small online announcement was removed from several websites "just in case," one of the organizers said yesterday.

Yet some 30 participants, both Chinese and expatriates, gathered in a grassy corner of the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo last night - mostly unnoticed in the semi-darkness - for a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender get-together.

Core members from nearly 10 Shanghai-based LGBT organizations gathered outside the "Seed Cathedral" to chat about the progress and the future of LGBT communities in China.

Though the numbers were small, the gathering was in the same spirit as the seventh Pride London Parade on July 3, which drew 1 million people, an organizer said.

The participants appreciated efforts of the British Embassy in Beijing and the British Consulate-General Shanghai for organizing the event.

It is rare in China, where LGBT-related issues and events are still sensitive.

"It just fits here, in the UK Pavilion, to show the amazing diversity and contributions of the LGBT community, which is a part of UK life," organizer Kathryn Rand from British Embassy told Shanghai Daily.

It was the first LGBT event the embassy organized in Shanghai and second in China. The embassy held a similar gathering in Beijing on May 17 to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

Rand, who has worked in China for four years, said she had seen "large progress on understanding of the community."

Other expatriates at the party agreed with Rand on the progress that they had seen, yet the Chinese participants still hoped for more improvements. Many of the local participants, core members of their organizations, are still closeted to their friends or families.

"My parents probably sense something, but they won't talk about it with me. They just keep pushing me for marriage," said Rio Qian, a member of Rainbow League, a two-and-half year old organization.

"I always want to go abroad to Europe, somewhere far away from home and where the environment is more open, so I can have more freedom," Qian said.

The Ph.D in engineering added that he had sacrificed quite a bit to hide the identity.

Last summer, two events of the first Shanghai Pride festival, the first gay festival in China, were shut down.

Cops kept a close eye on many more of the festival's events. In January, the nation's first Mr. Gay China Contest was also shut down.

In June, Beijing's second Gay Pride party took place but the majority of participants were foreign.

"We would like to make the (Shanghai Pride) festival larger this year," said Dylan Chen, of Shanghai LGBT, a four-year-old organization and the festival host.

"We are in collaboration with other LGBT organizations in Shanghai, compared with organizing it alone last year. We are also making efforts to have Chinese members take the lead for the events, as it was mostly the foreign members last year," Chen said.

The Shanghai Pride has been planned for October.


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