The recent visit to China by Iceland’s prime minister and her same-sex spouse has given rise to tentative hopes among gay Chinese that widespread news coverage could be a first step towards more openness about homosexuality at home.
It is not illegal to be gay in China, but it remains a largely taboo subject that baffles many in the world’s most populous nation thanks to decades of prudish Chinese Communist Party rule, despite numerous homosexual references in classical Chinese literature.
Scenes of Iceland’s premier Johanna Sigurdardottir thanking Chinese premier Li Keqiang for the “friendly reception” her spouse received on national broadcaster China Central Television’s (CCTV) notoriously stodgy evening news, and pictures with Sigurdardottir side-by-side with her playwright spouse Jonina Leosdottir, have virtually no precedent.
“This visit creates a quandary for China,” said Ah Qiang, a gay rights advocate in Guangzhou. “Everyone is looking to see how the official media will cover it. They have to at least admit that this is happening.”
“When I heard her thanking Li Keqiang for the treatment her wife received, I thought that I misheard,” one commenter said on microblog Sina Weibo, referring to the CCTV footage, widely seen as a bellwether for official tolerance.