The Beijing LGBT Center, one of China’s leading organisations offering support for the queer population, has announced the end of its operations.

The group, founded in 2008, provided the local gay, lesbian and transgender community with mental health therapy, medical resources and social support.

A gay student posing with a rainbow flag in Beijing on May 10, 2019 . Photo: Greg Baker/AFP.
A gay student posing with a rainbow flag in Beijing on May 10, 2019 . Photo: Greg Baker/AFP.

“We regret to inform you that due to unpreventable circumstances, the Beijing LGBT Center ceases operations today,” the group said in a statement Monday, without giving reasons.

The organisation also conducted research and developed networks of experts in an effort to enhance awareness of the challenges faced by gay people.

Chinese authorities decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, although same-sex marriage is not legal and social stigma is widespread.

Despite a period of relaxation in the 2000s and 2010s, recent years have seen a crackdown on the community, with university societies and pride events discontinued.

Jinghua Qian, a freelance journalist and expert on queer issues in China, lamented the closure on Tuesday, describing it as “terribly sad”.

“Beijing LGBT+ Center is absolutely pivotal to queer advocacy and social welfare in China and it was basically the last major, long-running organisation standing after waves of crackdowns smashed everything else,” Qian wrote on Twitter.

Shanghai Pride — once the country’s largest annual celebration of gay rights — announced in 2020 it would not be held that year and has not taken place since, though many events in China were paused due to Covid.

Film and television content depicting gay romance is not allowed, and early last year gay dating app Grindr was taken off digital shelves.

Reaction to the centre’s closure indicated it had left a lasting impact on the LGBT community.

“There will be people who have changed because you were there,” one person wrote on online platform Weibo. “Thanks for passing through this era. I hope there will be a chance to meet again.”

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