An LGBT conference in China was forced to cancel after organizers of the event were reportedly told by police that the city “does not welcome gay people.”
At least 400 attendees were expected to arrive at Sunday’s Speak Out conference in the city of Xi’an, with speakers such as Li Tingting, one of the “Feminist Five,” speaking out against discrimination and discussing Chinese LGBT rights.
But at 7 a.m. on Sunday, nine activists were detained by police and held for eight hours with no lines of communication, according to Shanghaiist, citing a viral Weibo post from the conference’s organizers.
In those eight hours, the activists were questioned and told by police that “LGBT events can not be held again in Xi’an” and “Xi’an does not welcome LGBT events.”
Another one of the event’s organizers, who only went by Matthew, told Reuters: “They were very clear in telling us we couldn’t organize activities in Xi’an again, and that they didn’t welcome gays.”
The organizers were forced to hand over their smartphones, administrator access to their systems, their passwords, and a list of speakers to the police, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
The team then announced on Sunday morning that the conference was postponed after five venues booked then cancelled at the last minute.
Venues gave reasons for cancelling ranging from fire safety concerns to important departments holding meetings.
The organizers were hoping to host the event again in the near future, but they eventually decided to cancel.
“This is in China,” the curator wrote.
They added: “If you ask me what kind of power can represent Xi’an to say that it ‘does not welcome LGBT’ activities, and what kind of people are ‘obstructing’ the event, I can only shrug my shoulders – I don’t know either, because no one told me. What is the reason for it ‘being cancelled’? It’s ‘no reason.’”
The organizers, who previously held the conference successfully in Xi’an, Chongqing and Chengdu, promised to offer refunds for all tickets by June 10.