Fri, May 10, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A stage for Taiwan to shine on

From April 28 to Sunday, Colin Lu (呂小呂) took to the stage with 21 other representatives in Cape Town, South Africa, to compete in a major international competition. However, unlike most other events of a similar caliber, Lu participated under the name Taiwan without a peep from across the Strait.

With Beijing blocking Taiwan’s participation in events even as small as a food fair at the University of Debrecen in Hungary, such an opportunity should not be ignored.

Lu was vying for the title of Mr Gay World, a competition that seeks to establish national ambassadors and champions of LGBT rights, while showcasing the spectrum of what it means to be gay around the world, according to its Web site. Delegates are evaluated on 11 criteria, with categories such as social responsibility and public voting added to those typical of similar contests, such as runway competitions and question-and-answer sessions.

Last month, Lu won the Mr Gay Taiwan crown, beating four other finalists to secure a place in the Cape Town event. All five expressed a desire to support and publicize marriage equality, recognizing the importance of Taiwan’s impending status as the first nation in Asia to legalize the right. Indeed, in his video for Mr Gay World, Lu made sure to highlight this fact, saying that “being part of this loving and connected gay community is our most powerful tool for fighting for our rights.”

By highlighting Taiwan’s vibrant gay community, its advances in LGBT rights and its desire to bring these experiences to the international community, Lu is helping Taiwan put its best foot forward and cementing its place alongside like-minded democracies.

However, while Taiwan has been showcasing its human rights credentials, China has been showcasing its lack of them.

This year’s event was originally scheduled to take place in Hong Kong, but amid an increased crackdown on LGBT-related events in China, the hosting company said that it could not continue with preparations out of concern for “the safety of our delegates and their families.”

“Mr Gay World has a unique opportunity to highlight the homophobic response by the Chinese authorities as another clear sign that LGBTQ people remain under pressure in many parts of the world,” Mr Gay World board of directors chairman Igor Scheurkogel said of the decision.

This is certainly not a good look for China, especially as it exposes its tightening grip on Hong Kong, a place that in 2015 even produced a Mr Gay World winner — Mass Luciano.

China in 2010 did have a representative at the competition, although his journey was far from smooth.

An hour before Mr Gay China was to begin in front of a sold-out audience, authorities shut down the show, citing a lack of permits. Organizers and contestants later secretly voted to send a 25-year-old Hui Muslim man from Xinjiang who went by the pageant name Xiaodai Muyi (木易小呆) to Oslo for the event. Despite being the third runner-up, he has had to keep a low profile, even while running an AIDS prevention organization in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

“I’m scared to go back to Urumqi, not for myself, but I’m scared that it will impact my organization. If the organization can’t continue its work, that will be no good,” he told Agence France-Presse at the time from his residence in Beijing.

With China doing its best to keep an arm’s distance from all things LGBT, it is inadvertently providing Taiwan a stage on which to present itself as it wishes to be seen. The nation’s delegates have since 2014 been seizing this opportunity, culminating in a fourth runner-up finish last year by Chen Po-hung (陳柏宏).

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