Gay rights activists campaign for same-sex marriage on St Valentine’s Day this year in Chaoyang district. Photo: Courtesy of Beijing LGBT Center
Beijing LGBT Center is facing eviction from a local community after the property management company received complaints from its neighbors.
"The landlord asked us to move, although our contract doesn't expire for nine months," said Stephen J. Leonelli, the center's program manager.
"We've been trying to negotiate with the landlord who has been under a lot of pressure," said Leonelli.
The center moved into an apartment in Guangxi Jiayuan, near the northeast Third Ring Road, Chaoyang district, three months ago.
It was recently informed by the landlord, as well as staff from the compound's property management company, that residents had complained the center held "activities which disturbed the neighborhood," said Leonelli.
"We said every time we have never engaged in illegal activities, but they still hold discrimination about what the organization does and wouldn't listen," he said.
Yesterday, the center's microblog showed a message of thanks to supporters who had offered them advice. Leonelli would not comment on the center's further course of action, as negotiations with the landlord are ongoing. There would be a further announcement on Monday, he said.
However, a director surnamed Feng, with Beijing Shengye Property Management Company who handles complaints for Guangxi Jiayuan, claimed yesterday that the problem was "already solved."
"We contacted the landlord immediately after property owners complained weeks ago, and they [center] should be gone soon," said Feng.
Feng said the residents could not stand that the apartment had been rented out for "the use of gay people." It had unpleasantly influenced residents' daily lives in the community, Feng said.
The center describes itself as a non-profit organization that organizes programs and services to further the LGBT movement and eliminate discrimination, according to its Sina blog homepage.
There are many kinds of activities on offer every week in the apartment, according to the website, including movie nights, lectures and psychological counseling in support of the Beijing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"I would have joined in the complaints against their existence in our community," said a female resident from the community, surnamed Yi.
"I'm concerned about the bad influence on my child if he sees a bunch of gay people coming in and out every day," she said.
"It's a residential compound, definitely not the place for these groups to do controversial and pioneering stuff," said Yi.
Leonelli said currently the center is busy looking for other premises as a contingency plan.
However, it could be very challenging to find another location, if other landlords and community residents react in the same way.
"Society may be more open to diversity, but I personally just couldn't put up with the idea of having them [homosexual people] in my house," said Wang Hejie, a local resident, who is also a landlord in Chaoyang district.
Li Yinhe, a well-known sexologist, thinks the situation in the community reflects that society as a whole lacks tolerance and understanding of protecting people's rights.
"Even the survey I did last year in universities, which are full of young students and scholars, showed that more than half had feelings of homophobia," said Li, adding that she found people would find it hard to accept gay people teaching in schools.
"Discrimination against homosexual people is still very common, because people very easily fear things we don't know about and fear people who are different," said Li.
Hui Jin (pseudonym), from a Beijing-based lesbian rights group, said that this is the second time Beijing LGBT Center has been evicted following complaints from neighbors.
"The center is more dedicated to community services including interactive projects, a bit more high-profile than other organizations in the city, which could cause more trouble," she said.
Jiang Jie contributed to this story