Homosexuality is not a crime in China and in the past few years the gay community has become more visible in the Chinese online world. Last week, an overseas Chinese pastor's reaction to the legalization of same-sex marriage by the New York State Senate, was echoed by an award-winning actress Lu Liping [zh]. Their words have triggered a heated debate on Chinese social media site, Sina Weibo.
On June 26, 2011 Pastor Feng Wei from Rochester, New York commented [zh] on Sina Weibo:
Last night, the New York State Senate legalised same-sex marriage. This is the sixth state in the U.S., and the largest one so far, to do so. May God have mercy on this land which is falling into depravity every day! Even if some day, the law makes it illegal for me to speak against homosexuality, I will continue to preach: Homosexuality is a sin. God loves sinners, but he hates sin! Believe in Jesus, gain victory over your sin, and move from Death to Life. (Note: Translated by Shanghaiist
Lu Liping thanking God during her Best Actress speech at the Golden Horse Award in Taipei
As a post on Shanghaiist on June 27 explains, Pastor Feng's post would have little effect in Weibo without actress Lu Liping's call [zh] for her 150,000 followers to support and retweet the post.
Gay activists have now called for a boycott of Lu's movies, and a number of actors and film makers have criticized Lu's homophobic comment publicly in Sina Weibo, for example Taiwanese actor, Cai Kangyong [zh] who says:
Even the Taiwan newspapers are following up Lu Liping's homophobic hate speech in Weibo. Ms Lu, the homosexual people that you hate are not an abstract term that cannot feel the pain, they are people of flesh and blood! Many of them are people whom you work with in the film industry, people who have given you support in the media and people who have recommended you for the [Best Actress at the 2010 Golden Horse Awards]. How many gay friends are supportive and kind to you? No matter what religion you believe in, the basic principle is that you cannot advocate hatred in particular to those who have helped you in your career.
Outside of the entertainment industry circle, a number of public opinion leaders in Weibo have also joined the discussion. Prominent blogger Lian Yue says [zh]:
Lu Liping uses the Bible to attack homosexuality, many people use the same weapon to criticize her and quote from the Gospel of Matthew to comment upon her divorce history: “That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” If you stick to the exact words from the Bible, many people would be prosecuted. For those who believe in Christ with love and tolerance would be respected, for those who want to take hold of power, would be scorned.
Fiction writer Mai Luoluo points out [zh]:
Tolerance for the other would complete oneself. God has planted such human character deep in our heart. I don't think homosexual love is abnormal. Michael Angelo struggled with his sexual orientation his whole life, eventually, his homosexual love has given him the greatest artistic achievement. The nude male bodies that he painted are so beautiful.
Buddhist Monk Shi Zhensheng joins [zh] in the discussion:
Buddhism will not condemn homosexuality as a sin, it tolerates homosexuality. However, it doesn't mean that it advocates homosexuality, it just won't uphold it nor reject it. Buddhism teaches every one of us not to be obsessed with love. “When love is not heavy, there is no sorrow,” the same principle is applied to homosexual and heterosexual people with no distinction. The Buddha looks at all living beings as equal and their source of sorrow is the same. They are different but the same, Amitabha.
Nevertheless, homophobic speech is quite common in the Chinese online world, and this debate has triggered quite a number of hateful comments. For example, “1284089530” says [zh]:
Today, homosexuality has become a trend. They glorify homosexual love and many young people intimate. This is bad for youth, like poison. In the long run, males will lose their masculinity, women will lose their femininity. I have a cousin who has been seduced by a homosexual and become one. He was forced into a hospital which diagnosed that he is not gay.
Guangzhou Lawyer Ou Zhengbiao opposes [zh] the legalization of homosexuality:
We have to hold firm our flag and oppose the legalization of homosexuality. When the country is about to die, monsters and spirits will arise. Homosexuality is against Yin and Yang, against natural law and human morality, it is not only a social problem, but something that affects the future of humans. To quote from a famous netizen, this is an anti-human crime! The legalization of homosexuality would bring about the destruction of the human being. We can't allow that to happen.
Nevertheless, several polls show that the majority of netizens accept and supports the choice of homosexual couples. According to a poll from ifeng.com [zh], about 70% of netizens respect the choices of a homosexual minority and about 60% support the legalization of homosexual marriage. The result of this poll is consistent with another Weibo poll in which more than 70% supported the choice of homosexual love and around 15% remain neutral. However, the poll has been deleted today by the Weibo administrator.
Another Weibo poll [zh] (right) with the rather odd phrasing asking, “Would you support your siblings and close friends in becoming homosexual?” has the following result: 20% absolutely oppose; 33% neutral and 46% support.