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China bans ‘effeminate’ men from TV broadcasts in pop-culture crackdown

Human rights activists expressed grave concerns that already marginalized groups in China are going to be further negatively impacted

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President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping (Screenshot via ABC News Australia)

Beijing – In an action promulgated by the government of President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping this week, China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) ( Chinese: 国家广播电视总局) ordered broadcasters to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”

In the directive, the NRTA used the term “Niang pao (Chinese: 娘炮)” which means “girlie guns” — more commonly translated as “sissy” an offensive description of effeminate men. The directive is seen as taking direct aim at the idols of the Chinese music industry who tend to be in their late teens to mid twenties, are thin, and dress in what could be loosely deemed an androgynously ambiguous manner.

This latest move is seen by some China-watchers as another in a decades long battle by Beijing to combat Western influences on the younger generations of Chinese.

Conservatives in Chinese society and government charge that young Chinese youth are turning into ‘soft boys,’ reflecting concern that the Chinese pop stars who have embraced the pop-culture phenomenon in part due to the influence of the South Korean pop music and all-encompassing genre known as K-Pop, are failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough.

In a November 12, 2018 article for Foreign Policy Magazine, journalist and essayist Lauren Teixeira wrote; “Smooth-skinned, slim-figured, and impeccably coiffed, the young male idols referred to colloquially as xiao xian rou (“little fresh meat”) have come to dominate the Chinese pop cultural landscape over the last decade.”

Teixeira added; “In China today, it is hard to walk down the street or watch TV without catching a glimpse of a delicate face belonging to a household-name xiao xian rou, such as Li Yifeng, Yang Yang, or Wu Yifan.”

Pushback against these idols and the culture they have inspired from some segments of China’s older generations, has led to President Xi Jinping to call for a “national rejuvenation.” This has resulted in tighter Communist Party control of business, education, culture and religion. Companies and the public are under increasing pressure to align with its vision for a more powerful China and healthier society, the Associated Press reported this week.

In 2013, the K-pop craze exploded in China following the debut of the boy band EXO, split into a Korean-singing group and a Mandarin one,” Teixeira reported. “If the Chinese government felt some compunction about allowing in this tide of delicate young men at the same time it was ramping up macho nationalist rhetoric, it didn’t show it. For the first time, the money from the celebrity industry was coming back into mainland China. Plus, Chinese xiao xian rou could be leveraged to drum up youth enthusiasm for the Chinese state—or so it was thought,” she added.

Now it appears that reckoning has come as Beijing cracks down which has also extended into the internet based facets of Chinese society. The Associated Press reported this past week that in addition the NRTA crackdown, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) (Chinese: 国家互联网信息办公室) is tightening control over the country’s internet industries.

CAC has launched anti-monopoly, data security and other enforcement actions at companies including games and social media provider Tencent Holding and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group that the ruling communist party worries are too big and independent.

Screenshot from popular Chinese music video.

Rules that took effect this past Wednesday limits anyone under 18 to three hours per week of online games and prohibits play on school days.

Game developers already were required to submit new titles for government approval before they could be released. Officials have called on them to add nationalistic themes, the AP reported.

As the crackdown escalates, human rights activists expressed grave concerns that already marginalized groups in Chinese society are going to be further negatively impacted as more rights erode.

OutRight Action International, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) collaborated to investigate the censorship of LGBTIQ websites and its impact on LGBTIQ individuals and communities. In China, researchers say LGBTQ+ people fall into a “don’t encourage it, don’t discourage it, don’t promote,” category although this past July, China shut down LGBTQ student groups social media.

The censorship sparked immediate outrage by some LGBTQ groups while others fearful of escalation remained silent.

CAC (Chinese: 国家互联网信息办公室) permanently disabled and deleted dozens of LGBTQ student organizations WeChat accounts (Chinese: 请在电脑浏览器上访问) across China. The accounts, which were primarily managed by students, advocate LGBTQ and gender equality, and providing support to LGBTQ students on university and college campuses in places like Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, and in the city of Shanghai.

The pages of those accounts now display the message: “According to internet regulations, we have screened all content and suspended this account.” The names of the accounts have been changed to “Unnamed.”

Tencent Holdings Ltd., also known as Tencent (Chinese: 腾讯控股有限公司) which owns WeChat has not responded to numerous media requests for comment nor did the company acknowledge deletion of the accounts. In this regard, the Cyberspace Administration of China has also not responded to requests for comment.

The censorship sparked immediate outrage by some LGBTQ groups while others fearful of escalation remained silent. Two of the groups affected issued separate media statements posted to the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo (Chinese: 新浪微博).

“There is a tendency in China for some people to relate homosexuality and LGBT people to Western lifestyles or capitalistic, bourgeois decadence, so this was in line with a moral panic,” said Hongwei Bao, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Nottingham and specialist in queer politics in China.

“Especially now, there’s tension between China-West relations, so there is likely to be a heightened sense of nationalism which sees LGBT issues, feminist issues, as Western, as unfit for China.”

ABC News (Australia) reports on the crackdown:

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Trailblazing Out K-pop star attacked in ‘hate crime’

“This is obviously a hate crime. The fact that my sexuality as gay is public should never expose myself to this kind of violence”

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Screenshot/YouTube

ITAEWON-DONG, Seoul, South Korea – Out K-pop star Holland, real name Go Tae-seob, was brutally attacked Wednesday in the Itaewon commercial district of the South Korean capitol city of Seoul. A spokesperson for the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency confirmed that the singer had been attacked.

The Itaewon district is known for its cosmopolitan dining and nightlife, with Korean BBQ restaurants, and upscale bistros, as well as low-key kebab shops catering to a late-night crowd. Casual beer bars and gay pubs sit alongside hip dance clubs where DJs spin hip-hop and house music.

In a tweet about the incident, the Out gay pop star wrote; “Last night, I was walking around Itaewon with my manager and a friend. Suddenly, a stranger man approached me and hit me on the face twice, calling me ‘a dirty gay’. Now I have a scar on my face and I’m going to the hospital soon.”

Holland also noted; “This is obviously a hate crime. The fact that my sexuality as gay is public should never expose myself to this kind of violence. Nor any other LGBT+ and all elders, women and minorities in this world. This happening in 2022 shows the sad reality of LGBT+ human rights.”

At the end of March earlier this year, the singer revealed during a live stream with fans that he is currently seeing a special someone, but he didn’t give many details about his new partner. 

PinkNewsUK reported that the K-pop singer was questioned by fans in the chat during the live stream about his relationship and does indeed “have a boyfriend now”. Holland repeated the happy news while smiling, adding “damn” cheekily at the end. 

“He’s very handsome and kind, tall,” Holland said, describing his boyfriend to fans.

In an interview published by Daily Mirror journalist Zahna Eklund, she noted that being an LGBTQ+ celebrity in South Korea isn’t always easy. The subject is still very taboo and same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised. So when Holland, burst onto the K-pop scene in 2018 as the industry’s only openly gay star, he had to fight tooth and nail to get recognised.

Holland first told his friends about his sexuality when he was a teenager, but admitted he didn’t tell his parents until he debuted as an idol in 2018. The 24-year-old singer has also said that he was bullied in school because of his sexuality, Eklund wrote.

In its annual Global Human Rights Report for 2022, Human Rights Watch reported;

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is an established democracy that largely respects civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, although significant human rights concerns remain.

Discrimination against women is pervasive, as well as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, racial and ethnic minorities, and foreign migrants and refugees. 

The LGBT rights movement in South Korea is growing but continues to face hostility and severe discrimination, especially in the armed forces. In October, a South Korean court ruled that the military unlawfully discriminated against Byun Hee-su, the country’s first openly transgender soldier, when it discharged her after she underwent a gender affirming surgery in 2019. The court ordered her reinstatement, but Byun died by suicide in March.

In schools, LGBTQ+ children and young people experience severe isolation and mistreatment including bullying and harassment, a lack of confidential mental health support, exclusion from school curricula, and gender identity discrimination. 

Activists and progressive legislators have actively advocated for the National Assembly to develop and pass a broad-based national anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ persons as well as women, children, people with disabilities, older people, and foreigners. But the government did not make meaningful progress on such a law, citing a vocal Christian conservative group’s anti-LGBTQ+ opposition.

Evangelical Korean churches and religious organizations also continue their efforts to attempt to effectively erase LGBTQ+ Koreans by marginalizing and demonizing them.

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Supreme Court of Korea overturns gay sex conviction of military personnel

“Punishing these incidents could infringe upon the right to equality, the dignity and value as human and the right to pursue happiness”

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Photo Credit: Republic of Korea Army public affairs

SEOCHO-GU,  Seoul, South Korea – The Supreme Court of Korea overturned a 2019 military court conviction of two service members of the Republic of Korea Army, also known as the ROK, sentenced to suspended prison terms for their same-sex relationship.

“Punishing these incidents could infringe upon the right to equality, the dignity and value as human and the right to pursue happiness as guaranteed by the Constitution,” the high court said in its ruling. Under Korea’s civilian law homosexual activity is not illegal, but there are provisions in the country’s code of military justice that can lead to conviction and prison sentences for same-sex sexual acts.

Reuters reported the ministry of defence said it would thoroughly review “the intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling”. In the past, South Korean authorities have defended the military code against same-sex relationships as necessary to maintain discipline.

The two defendants were indicted in 2017 for having same-sex intercourse in 2016, while off duty and outside their base, which is punishable with prison for up to two years under the Military Criminal Act.

Korea’s civil and human rights group’s applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Lim Tae-hoon the Director of the Military Human Rights Center released a statement Thursday after the ruling taking aim at the military’s position.

“How long will we leave a backward law that judges an individual’s private life in a court of law because he is a sexual minority?

With this ruling as an opportunity, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex sex can no longer be evaluated as an act worthy of punishment.” 

Lim Tae-hoon told Reuters the military act is under review in the Constitutional Court after the filing of numerous petitions against it, and the center urged the court to quickly complete its review of what it called an “outdated and bad” law.

Last year, the Daejeon District Court ruled against the ROK in a case over a Trans soldier who had committed suicide prior to the ruling that Staff Sergeant Byun Hui-su, as her Trans gender was already legally recognized, the ROK Army should have used standards applied to women to determine her fitness to serve.

Ruling in Staff Sergeant Byun Hui-su’s favour, the court noted: ‘When based on standards of women, there are no mental or physical disability grounds for dismissal.” The court then ordered the ROK Army to reinstate her.

Sadly there was no celebratory acknowledgement because on March 3, 2021 she took her own life and was discovered deceased by emergency officials at her home in the city of Cheongju, south of the South Korean capital city of Seoul.

She took the Army to court with the assistance of the Center for Military Human Rights.

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Singapore high court dismisses sodomy law challenges

Advocacy groups expressed disappointment over decision

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Singapore, gay news, Washington Blade
(Public domain photo)

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s highest court on Monday upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss three challenges to a law that criminalizes sexual relations between men.

While delivering the judgment, given by a bench of five judges, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of the Singapore Court of Appeal said that the appeals are not about “whether (Section) 377A (of the penal code) should be retained or repealed, that being a matter beyond our remit.”

“Nor are they about the moral worth of homosexual individuals,” said Menon. “In the words of our prime minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, homosexual individuals are ‘part of our society’ and ‘our kith and kin.'”

The appeal court went ahead and said the appeals are also “not about the fundamental nature of sexual orientation, whether immutable or not, which is an extra-legal question well beyond the purview of the courts.”

The court also suggested that political resolution of the issue is more appropriate than litigating it. The chief justice said that the advantage of the political process is its ability to accommodate divergent interests and opinions, while litigation is “not a consultative or participatory process.”

“This is so for good reason because litigation is a zero-sum, adversarial process with win-lose outcomes,” said Menon. “The political process, in contrast, seeks to mediate — it strives for compromises and consensus in which no one side has to lose all.”

The chief justice also said that it is “unnecessary” for the court to address a constitutional issue.

“They do not face any real and credible threat of prosecution under 377A at this time,” said Menon while delivering the judgment. “Therefore, (they) do not have the standing to pursue their constitutional challenges to that provision.”

“We, as organizations advocating for LGBTQ+ equality in Singapore, are disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s landmark ruling on Section 377A, which comes as a setback for all who were hoping for a resounding conclusion to this decades-long fight for equality,” said Ready4Repeal, a Singapore-based LGBTQ rights group, in a press release. “Despite recognizing the current situation as deeply unsatisfactory for the LGBTQ+ community, the Court of Appeal has still decided to retain the law, albeit with legal assurances on its unenforceability.”

Last year, three men, DJ Johnson Ong Ming, retired general practitioner Roy Tan Seng Kee, and Bryan Choong Chee Hoong, the former executive director of Oogachaga, an LGBTQ+ non-profit organization, decided to appeal against a Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss their cases against Section 377A.

“While this is a small step in the right direction, this simply does not go far enough to provide real protection to the LGBTQ+ community, who continue to be impacted by the cascading effects of Section 377A,” said Ready4Repeal. “The judges themselves acknowledged that even with the assurance of unenforceability, homosexual men will still be left open to police investigations as if a crime had been committed.”

Ready4Repeal started a petition in 2018 to pressurize the Singaporean government on repealing the colonial-era law. The petition has received 51,047 online signatures.

Section 377A is a highly debated law in Singapore that prohibits sexual relationships between two men. According to the law, any man in public or private who commits an act of gross indecency with another male shall be punished with to years in prison.

Last year, Home Minister Affairs K Shanmugam said that everyone in Singapore will be protected regardless of community and social, religious or sexual beliefs. He also said that the government’s position is clear. He also said that amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act make it an offense to urge violence on the grounds of religion or religious belief against any person or group.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong last year reiterated that different sections of the society have valid concerns, and it needs to be addressed.

“Tribalism is inherently exclusionary, and it’s based on mutual hate: ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ ‘friend’ vs ‘foe,'” said Wong. “Once this sort of tribal identity takes root, it becomes difficult to achieve any compromise. Because when we anchor our politics on identity, any compromise seems like dishonor.”

Ankush Kumar (Mohit) is a freelance reporter, who has covered many stories for Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade from Iran, India, and Singapore. Recently covered story for The Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected].

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