Communist-Ruled Hong Kong Bans LGBT Pride Parade
Hong Kong police notified organizers of the city’s annual LGBT pride parade that they would not receive a permit to hold the event this year, allegedly to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.
Hong Kong police banned the parade last year, as well — allowing a stationary rally but not a march that would move through the city, allegedly to protect participants from pro-democracy demonstrators. The 2019 rally attracted thousands of supporters of the ongoing anti-communist protests. Jimmy Sham, one of the LGBT activists involved in organizing the rally, is also the convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, a pro-democracy group. Sham has experienced multiple violent attacks in public since his profile rose as a prominent anti-communist activist in the city.
Hongkongers have spent over a year organizing large-scale protests against the Communist Party of China, initially in response to a proposed law that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if accused of violating communist laws. Hong Kong is legally autonomous from the Communist Party under what is known as “One Country, Two Systems.”
The Legislative Council tabled the bill for the extradition law but, in response to the protests, Beijing’s National People’s Congress passed a law this year that allows Chinese communist police to arrest and disappear anyone found guilty of “national security” crimes. Among those crimes is “subversion of state power,” a vaguely defined infraction that appears to include any criticism of the Chinese government.
Since the law passed, Hong Kong police have arrested individuals for “crimes” such as celebrating the Liverpool soccer team (“foreign interference”) and honoring those killed by communists in the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
According to Hong Kong Pride, the group organizing the LGBT event, police did not indicate that the reason for banning the parade was political, instead attributing it to the pandemic.
“Hong Kong Pride Parade have [sic] received the ‘Letter of Objection’ issued by the Hong Kong Police Force on 10th November. We are disappointed to announce that this year there will be no parade on the streets,” the group said. To organize a public assembly in Hong Kong, groups must file with the police. They either receive an approval, a “Letter of No Objection,” or a “Letter of Objection” rejecting the request.
“Although it is not possible to gather on the street, the Hong Kong Pride Parade 2020 will still hold an online event. We believe that even [though] there are ups and downs, we still live Here and Proud,” the group announced. The online event will be a live stream scheduled for November 15. The event will feature worship organized by the Blessed Ministry Community Church.
Hong Kong police have banned any gatherings of more than four people in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
The Letter of Objection, which Hong Kong Pride shared, read in part, “as public rallies and marches are high-risk activities due to the large number of people that would be gathering, the police have reason to believe that holding this event… would present serious risk to the lives and health of the public.”
According to the Asian outlet Coconuts, Hong Kong’s LGBT community have held a parade every year since 2008 except for 2010, meaning 2020 will be the first year in a decade without a pride parade.
Hong Kong boasts a small openly LGBT community whose parade reportedly attracted about 12,000 people at its peak in 2018. The 2019 rally, held amid widespread anti-government protests and recorded instances of police brutality, attracted about 6,500 people. Organizers said at the time that a significant concern for participants was that the Hong Kong government had recently made wearing masks in public illegal, as pro-democracy protesters used them to avoid police brutality. Pride parades typically encourage elaborate costumes, make-up, and masks.
The law banning masks in public remains on the books, despite the fact that Hong Kong also passed a law making masks mandatory in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Some participants in the 2019 Pride parade wore black to show support for the anti-communist protests. In addition to the LGBT community, some who spoke to the South China Morning Post joined the rally, even though they were not part of the community, to show support to the community in light of their ties to the anti-communist movement.
The last year that police allowed an undisturbed LGBT Pride parade was 2018.“The marchers gathered at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay before heading off at 3 p.m. for Edinburgh Place in Central. Organisers put the attendance at 12,000, while police estimates were around 4,300,” the South China Morning Postreported at the time. “The march was followed by a religious service offered by Blessed Ministry Community Church and Covenant of the Rainbow, a coalition of LGBT-friendly Hong Kong religious organisations.”
“We can see a growing number of people joining the parades, and this is in line with an earlier University of Hong Kong survey which showed that a larger proportion of Hongkongers support equality for LGBTs,” Jimmy Sham, a spokesman for the event at the time, said.
Sham became a prominent voice in the pro-democracy movement last year as the head of the Civil Human Rights Front, which worked to secure Letters of No Objection from police for pro-democracy protests prior to police choosing to ban all anti-communist activity. In August 2019, unidentified thugs attacked Sham and a friend with a baseball bat in broad daylight. In October of that year, masked thugs beat him in public with a hammer.
China is believed to be home to the world’s largest LGBT population, given that it is also the world’s most populous state. Communist regimes have a long history of oppressing its LGBT community, however, and China has done the same, branding LGBT identity as incompatible with “socialist values.” Beijing has taken advantage of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic to shut down the nation’s oldest Pride parade, previously scheduled to take place in Shanghai in August.
In 2017, China began a campaign of censorship against danmei, a form of gay fiction, typically written by women, that had become extremely popular online. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced the decision was necessary because all fiction must “reflect core socialist values and abide by moral norms.” The bureaucracy had recently announced a 20-point system to evaluate if a work carried sufficient “core socialist values” not to be deemed illegal.