Shanghai Pride formally announced the cessation of its activities on Thursday.
The event, which started as a small community gathering in 2009, served as China’s sole major annual celebration of LGBTQ+ rights.
In an open letter titled “The End of the Rainbow,” event organizers — who are all volunteers — announced that they are “canceling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events.”
While the letter did not cite any reason, a source with knowledge of the matter reportedly told CNN that the team has received pressure from local authorities.
A person who heads a national LGBTQ rights advocacy group noted that laying low might be necessary to survive.
“The public gets to see the visible and impactful aspects of what we do, but they can’t imagine the difficulties we face behind the scenes — I think Shanghai Pride is no exception,” he said, according to CNN. “With things becoming harder and riskier, laying low may let you survive for now. But the purpose of our job is to raise visibility and educate the public — that’s the dilemma.”
Homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997. In 2001, it was declassified as a mental illness.
However, LGBTQ+ people have continued to report facing incidents of discrimination in Chinese society. The fact that Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year has done little to undo years of struggle in the mainland.
Unlike its Western counterparts, Shanghai Pride activities were typically held indoors. The Pride Run is its only public appearance.
Just last month, the organizers published articles about the success of the 12th celebration, which ran from June 13 to June 21. They also said, “We hope to see everyone at Shanghai Pride 2021!”
Xiaomi, which took part in last year’s activities, acknowledged how the event brought together people to enjoy various kinds of activities and discuss many relevant topics. These include gender equality, same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination, to name a few.
“For many, Shanghai Pride has become part of the city, and is an important event in June,” Xiaomi said, according to the South China Morning Post. “It’s a blow to the Chinese LGBT community and Shanghai’s loss.”
An activist who helped organize events that were attended by some 400 people echoed the same sentiment.
“Pride Week used to be unbridled, charming and full of zest,” they said, according to SCMP. “I’m sad about parting ways, as well as about the shrinking space for the LGBT community. The organisers have taken on a load of pressure and unspeakable difficulties.”
Feature Images via Shanghai Pride