China - Gay Bashing Actors
Increasingly emboldened gay and lesbian groups in China have become embroiled in a public feud with fundamental Christians
More than 10 gay rights groups have called for a boycott of the works of two well-known, award-winning actors who have used the Internet to condemn homosexuality as a crime and a sin.
“We’re asking people to stop watching any of the movies or television shows the two actors are involved with,” said Geng Le, director of danlan.org, a gay information website that jointly organized the boycott.
The actors at the center of the controversy are Lü Liping and Sun Haiying, who are married to each other.
A video circulating on Chinese Internet platforms shows Sun exclaiming: “Homosexuality absolutely can’t be allowed…. It is destroying humanity! It’s a betrayal of human nature,” he says. “We shouldn’t talk about it. It’s dirty! It’s a crime!”
On June 26, Sun’s wife Lü reposted on her microblog a rant from a user named Feng Wei, who claims to be the pastor of the Victory Baptist Chinese Mission of Rochester, New York. His posting railed against the passing of legislation that legalized same-sex marriages in his state.
“God have mercy on this decaying soil!” wrote Feng. “Even if one day they make it a crime to speak against gays, I’d still say: Homosexuality is sin. God loves sinners, but God hates sins!”
Lü has posted three of Feng’s recent tirades on her microblog, which also contains other fervent religious content, and urged her followers to spread it. “Brothers and sisters repost it!” she wrote.
She later reposted another of Feng’s posting which quotes from the Bible to oppose homosexuality. Lü wrote that Feng’s posting was “Geilivable!” which is Chinese Internet-speak meaning cool, or powerful.
“It’s troublesome that public figures like them would use religion to create bigotry and misunderstanding,” said Geng.
The actor’s inflammatory words are a rarity in China where celebrities and other religious group seldom openly engage in gay bashing.
Gay community reacts
“The couple has expressed unfriendly comments many times and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community can’t take it anymore,” said Ah Qiang, co-founder of gay rights group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
“We appeal to consumers from the LGBT community; don’t buy stuff from people who discriminate against you,” said Ah Qiang. “We also hope the media, production companies and venues won’t provide them with a platform” to spread their discriminatory and hatefully ideas.
Gay rights activists are also calling on people in Sydney to protest and boycott a play that both Sun and Lü will be performing in this coming week. They are starring in the play Peer Gynt, which is being staged at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts Parade Theatre as part of its Year of Chinese Culture in Australia. The play will tour other theatres in Australia in July.
Ah Qiang wrote to the production’s organizers, the Australian Chinese Performing Artists Association, asking them to delay or cancel the show, but the association responded Thursday that the show will go on.
The Parade Theatre didn’t respond Thursday to an email sent by the Global Times.
Call for Australian tour boycott
Neither Lü nor Sun has responded publicly to the call for a boycott of their work. The Global Times tried for days to reach Lü’s mobile phone but no one answered.
Ah Qiang believes people have a right to their own beliefs but spreading hurtful falsehoods borders on hate mongering. “Lü is spreading irresponsible comments. It hurts the gay community and could possibly deepen the public’s bias toward gay people,” he said.
Ah Qiang, who is currently in the US serving an internship with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), said public figures in the US who spread defamatory comments such as Sun and Lü have done are often penalized professionally.
Gay and straight Web users in China have also expressed anger at Lü’s microblog. Many Christians and celebrities have also criticized Lü and Sun and shown support to the gay community.
“My house keeper is Christian…and she knows I’m gay. We respect each other. She treats me and my boyfriend well,” filmmaker Cheng Qingsong wrote on his microblog.
The clash between the actors and the gay community has been widely reported in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Kevin Tsai (Cai Kangyong), a popular TV show host and author in Taiwan, who is openly gay, criticized Lü on his microblog. He reminded the actress that many of her fans are gay or lesbian. “Is it acceptable to advocate hatred toward so many people who supported you?” wrote Tsai.
Lü won the Taiwan Golden Horse Award for Best Actress last year. She has also won the Golden Rooster Prize and the Hundred Flowers Film Prize. Sun has won the Plum Blossom Prize, the Golden Eagle Prize and the Flying Goddess Award for Best Actor.
“The No. 1 pressure against homosexuals in China is discrimination, especially from within the family,” said Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Though homosexuality is no longer a crime or listed as a mental illness in China, many gays and lesbians still choose to stay in the closet. Experts estimate that there are about 30 million gays and lesbians in China. About 80 percent of gay men are pressured into marrying women in order to produce offspring. Some gays and lesbians marry each other to appease their parents.
Imported hateful ideas
“Lü represents a group of people that opposes homosexuality because of religious beliefs,” said Li. She’s seeing more rightwing religious ideas filtering in from the West that are increasingly clashing with the message of tolerance advocated by gay and lesbian organizations.
“They oppose progress,” Li said of the celebrity couple.
Fan Popo, a documentary filmmaker, says it’s ironic that in China two marginalized groups, fundamental Christians and homosexuals would be pitted against each other. “The religious group, like the gay community, is also a vulnerable group in China,” Fan said.
Online research shows that the public in China appear far more sympathetic to gays and lesbians than bible-thumping Christians. An example is an often forwarded segment of a US television program called “What would you do?” The video, shot with hidden camera, includes actors who play lesbian and gay couples dining with their children in a Texas restaurant. The waitress, who is also an actor, verbally abuses the family. The patrons, unaware of the setup, chastise the waitress.
Many Chinese Web users, including celebrities, have shared the online video saying they were touched by the understanding the couple received in the heart of conservative Texas.
Yet sociologist Li believes the growth of fundamental Christianity in China has encouraged other conservative Chinese who oppose homosexuality even though they may not be religious. “Describing homosexuality as sinful is totally an imported idea,” she said.
Other Christians more supportive
The actor couple’s inflammatory and hateful words seem to have crossed the line and irked other religious leaders.
Father Wang Heping, PhD on ethics, from Wangfujing Catholic Church in Beijing said most Christian dominations in China don’t oppose homosexuality. He doesn’t believe Christian fundamentalism is a big threat to the gay community here. “It’s unlikely fundamentalist Christianity will grow here as it has in the West,” he said.
“Tolerance and love, that’s at the heart of God’s teachings,” said Father Wang.