Alex Blaze

Cruising crack-down in China

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 31, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Chinese gays and lesbians, cruising for sex, Guangzhou, men, park, protest, public sex, sex

I saw this scanning headlines this morning, from China Daily:

Homosexuals clash with police in park

The words "homosexual," "police," and "park" together in a headline make me think "cruising" (and, of course, "police abusing their power and discretion to harass men looking for sex"). Interestingly, China Daily doesn't directly mention public sex, although the article does say that the park is "a popular gathering spot for male homosexuals," that it's "frequented by homosexuals," and that a local gay group goes to that park "to educate others about safe sex" and to encourage gay men "to behave decently in the park."

So you have to connect the dots a bit, but it seems like, at the very least, men go to this park to meet up and have sex at home. They could be having sex there, as well. If no cruising is involved, I have to wonder how the police managed to even tried to kick all gay men out of the park (which is the center of the story), since they'd just look like everyone else. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about Chinese culture could fill in some gaps.

What I find interesting is the fact that the police officer interviewed for the story didn't use the typical Western excuse of protecting the children to crack down on men picking up other men. Instead, this officer says it's because the gays are committing minor crimes in the park:

A police officer with the Guangwei subdistrict public security station, who declined to be identified, said the move to ask homosexuals to leave the park was a preventive measure because gay people are allegedly committing crime in the park.

"An increasing number of local citizens have told us they have been harassed by gay people in the park," the unnamed officer said.

The officer also said homosexuals are committing minor crimes such as robbery and stealing.

"We can hardly distinguish those who have harassed local citizens. That is why we have to push all of them out," he said.

Ah Qiang refuted the police officer's claim and said that male homosexuals are the victims of crimes, not the perpetrators. Many gay people are robbed in the park, he said.

"Police should protect us from being victims of such crimes, instead of pushing us away," said Ah, who added that fewer gay people dare to enter the park after the police's recent action.

It only makes American claims about the children seem more ridiculous. Instead of just saying that they don't like public sex, or that they don't like gays using public space to pick up one another, the police always seem to have to make up an excuse as to why they're going overboard in trying to get these men out of parks.

"Protecting the children" was always a farce, since by far the easiest and most-enforceable solution to that problem is just to have a "no kids allowed" section of a park for cruisers only. And I'm willing to believe Ah Qiang over the police when he says that the "robbery" excuse is a lie.

It'd be nice to have more information about this, and I'm open reconsidering my interpretation of the situation based on a translated article of something that happened in a completely different cultural context. But one thing that seems to happen across cultures is police taking a mile if they're given an inch.

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Based on my experience in China, they probably are having sex somewhere in the park or nearby, like in public bathrooms or other secluded areas. Most of the men who cruise in parks in China are older, married men who can't do it at home and probably don't have money to shell out for a hotel room. Guys in their teens to early 30s tend to look online.

Think of it as being like a more high-tech America in the 50s or 60s. It's still a largely closeted society, but things are changing. I've known an increasing number of younger guys who are out.

Since the park is listed as a cruising location on I'm sure that this is the actual basis for the crackdown. China is a puritanical society; perhaps the authorities are not even able to get their brains around, much less talk about the idea of men having sex in a park.

"China is a puritanical society; perhaps the authorities are not even able to get their brains around, much less talk about the idea of men having sex in a park."

I'm not sure I would go that far... China is a lot more conservative than the U.S. in the sense that even PDA among straight couples that goes beyond holding hands is frowned upon. At the same time, I've found that young people there are increasingly accepting with regard to gay people. I'm out to all of my friends there, and I know a lot of college-aged guys who are out to their classmates. In many cases, I was the first gay person my friends had ever met, but their responses ranged from inquisitiveness to apathy.

There's something about the culture there that doesn't produce the conviction of righteousness of one's own prejudices that you see so often here. Even when my straight friends found the idea of sex with another guy repulsive, they never condemned it as "immoral" or "wrong," and people who had prejudices against gays were far more willing to adjust their thinking when they actually met someone who was gay.