Human Rights Watch has urged the Chinese government to “take immediate steps to stop public hospitals and private clinics from offering conversion therapy.” The “treatments” which claim to change one’s sexual orientation are “inherently discriminatory and abusive,” it said.

The NGO released a new 52-page report on Wednesday entitled Have You Considered Your Parents’ Happiness?’: Conversion Therapy Against LGBT People in China. It comprises of interviews with 17 people who have undergone such treatment and describes how many were forced by their parents to take part.

All of the interviewees said they would not have done so were it not for intense family and societal pressure, and “none provided free and informed consent,” the NGO said. However, none of the interviewees filed a complaint, with some saying they feared that their sexual orientation would become public.

Forms of torture 

According to the report, in some cases the process “entailed involuntary confinement, forcible medication, and electroshocks, which can constitute a form of torture.” Some of the facilities which administer such treatments are government-run.

One interviewee, Luo Qing tried to flee the facility: “I was getting really close to the unguarded door, but before I could get to the door, the two security guys caught up and got me. The next thing I know is that I was on the floor.”

The interviewees also overwhelmingly said that they were subjected to verbal harassment and insulting language by medics, and were called “sick,” “pervert,” “disease,” “abnormal” and “dirty,” according to the report.

A Hong Kong protest. File photo: H.L.Tam.

Homosexuality was removed from the Chinese Psychiatric Society’s classification of mental disorders in 2001. The report said that “because same-sex attraction is not a disorder, the law renders conversion therapy illegal.”

Although the court has ruled twice in favour of victims of conversion therapy, the rulings have not yet had an obvious deterrent effect, the NGO said.

Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch, noted that it has been more than 20 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in China: “If Chinese authorities are serious about ending discrimination and abuse against LGBT people, it’s time to put an end to this practice in medical facilities.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.