190 Chinese LGBT groups condemn Orlando club shooting

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/14 0:53:01

Local LGBT groups call attention to ‘other forms of violence’ in China

Flags are lowered at half mast on the Washington Monument grounds to honor those killed by a lone gunman at a night club in Orlando, Monday in Washington, DC. At least 49 were killed and 53 wounded in the shooting. Photo: AFP

In their largest coordinated effort in history, over 190 gay rights organizations across China on Monday released a joint letter strongly condemning terrorism and violence based on sexual orientation, after a gunman killed at least 49 people in a US gay club.

Analysts said the letter indicates that Chinese gay rights activists, with growing political awareness, are eager to join the global campaign to change the social taboos imposed on their group.

"We, the members of China's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, wish to express our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families, friends, and loved ones, and all those affected by this monstrous act," read a joint letter released by the LGBTQ organizations.

"Together with them, we grieve the loss of so many innocent lives and strongly condemn terrorism and all forms of violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression," the letter read.

The letter, which was initiated by LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a Chinese NGO, called for united actions among Chinese LGBTQ organizations to participate in related initiatives and petitions across the globe. It also called for supporters to switch social media profile pictures to one related to the Orlando attack and forward information on opposing violence and discrimination.

At least 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded, including a police officer, early Sunday in a mass shooting at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It is the worst mass shooting in US history and the deadliest terror attack since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the shooting. However, the father of suspected gunman Omar Mateen said that his son was not driven by religious ideology but homophobia. He said his son grew "very angry" after seeing two men kissing in Miami a few months ago. 

"The massacre is a reminder that homophobia and transphobia are still prevalent and causing devastation throughout our world today. Although private ownership of guns is banned in China, other forms of violence, such as conversion therapies, bullying of LGBTQ youth in schools and other discriminatory treatment occur on a daily basis," Peng Yanhui, an initiator of the campaign and director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, told the Global Times on Monday.

Peng said he was "devastated" to see a good number of Chinese netizens commenting with prejudice toward LGBTQ groups when they found out that a gay bar was attacked and that some Chinese media also downplayed the factor of homophobia in the attack.

"We haven't made specific plans but we would like to take this opportunity to participate in future initiatives proposed by US LGBTQ groups as part of a global campaign," Peng said.

Important as Stonewall

Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist at Wuhan's Central China Normal University, said the mass shooting could be a "key point" in the gay rights movement and that the number of Chinese LGBTQ groups participating in the campaign this time is "unforeseen."

"This event could be as important as the Stonewall riots … The riots showed oppression from the authorities and the Orlando shooting displays the horror cast by civil society," Peng Xiaohui told the Global Times on Monday.

The Stonewall riots were a series of violent confrontations between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. The riots were considered the beginning of an international gay rights movement.

"The Chinese LGBTQ people feel the same pain as those in the US, which is that their lives are directly threatened because of their sexual orientation," the sexologist said.

However he cautioned Chinese gay rights activists to show restraint. He said the organizations should take one step at a time to change how LGBTQ people are viewed by society without "politicizing the event too much by mixing it with other demands."

Offering condolences

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called his US counterpart Barack Obama to offer condolences over the deadly shooting. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also expressed deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the US government and the US people.

The shooting has also prompted some discussion on gun control in Chinese cyberspace. Many said it is lucky that China does not allow civilian gun ownership.

Chen Youxi, a lawyer from the Hangzhou-based Jingheng Law Firm, said on his Weibo account that he hopes the Orlando shooting could reinitiate Obama's gun control bill. "Chinese authorities pushed for gun control and the people supported it. The truth is, gun control is the key reason China has seen fewer cases of bloody murders," Chen said.

Zhao Yusha and agencies contributed to this story

Newspaper headline: 190 Chinese LGBT groups condemn US club shooting

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