by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
When the Mr. Gay World 2010 Pageant takes place in Oslo this weekend, it will include a contestant from China, in spite of the Chinese government's efforts.
Chinese police raided the Mr. Gay China event on January 15, shutting it down only an hour before show time. Event organizers were informed they lacked appropriate permits.
At that time, Mr. Gay China organizers said they would not send a representative to Oslo.
"After a group discussion, the organizers and candidates all decided not to send a delegate to represent China this year," their website announced.
That apparently was a ruse to elude Chinese authorities, however, because the Chinese contestant arrived in Oslo on February 9.
"Chinese authorities did not want a Chinese contestant to come to Norway to take part in our pageant, but thanks to the Norwegian embassy, which rushed his visa delivery, the participant arrived [Tuesday, February 9] in Oslo," Mr. Gay World 2010 director Tore Aasheim told AFP news service.
Aasheim would not reveal the name of the Chinese entrant, but said he had been selected by the other Chinese contestants after authorities shut down their pageant.
"It is very courageous on his part to have taken the risk to leave his country to take part in an event to which Chinese authorities are hostile," Aasheim said.
"In Beijing, all the contestants were gathered in one room and police clearly indicated they did not want Chinese participation in the pageant. It's very uncomfortable to receive such a message in a country where human rights are not the main priority," Aasheim added.
Twenty-four contestants from five continents will compete in this year's pageant.
An Irish contestant won the title last year in the first Mr. Gay World Pageant, held in Whistler, Canada.
Since decriminalizing homosexuality in 1997, China has made real, though occasionally halting progress toward tolerance of its LGBT citizens.
In 2001, China removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
Beijing's first Gay bar opened in 2005, and in June last year Shanghai hosted China's first Pride Festival, although the parade was cancelled by authorities.
June 2009 also featured the five-day Beijing Queer Film Festival, an event that police blocked in 2001 and 2005.
However, Chinese authorities have announced new restrictions on LGBT organizations and their activities in the wake of last month's raid on the Mr. Gay China Pageant.
While the Chinese government wishes to portray their country as a cosmopolitan and sophisticated tourist destination - by opening a state-sponsored Gay bar in the Dali tourist resort, for example - authorities clearly remain divided on how to relate to their own LGBT citizens.
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