A lot can change in six years.
At least that's the experience of Didier Zheng, an openly gay Chinese man who
just wrapped up a stint hosting China's first Internet television show devoted
to addressing homosexual issues.
Educated at the Sorbonne
University in Paris, Zheng said he found a new climate in China after returning
in 2006 from his six years abroad. That's because in 2001 the Chinese government
took homosexuality off its list of mental illnesses; and Shanghai's Fudan
University introduced its first undergraduate course on homosexuality in 2005.
Didier Zheng, A French teacher and AIDS activist, hosts a
live weekly show on the Internet about issues ranging from AIDS prevention
to why some people are gay.
And then there's Zheng's live weekly show, which made its Internet debut in
April. Called "Tongxing Xianglian," or "Connecting Homosexuals," the show's
purpose was to educate gay and heterosexual communities about issues ranging
from AIDS prevention to why some people are gay.
Speaking to chinadaily.com.cn in French-accented English, Zheng is talkative
and eager to talk about gay issues. The 27-year-old has a slim build and
"After 2001, everything changed," Zheng said. "Society is changing. We are
paying more attention to gay man's socialization and integration [into
A French teacher and AIDS activist at Chi Heng Foundation, Zheng believes
that China's economic development, coupled with an influx of foreign ideas from
across the globe, has helped China make progress in its treatment of gays.
The show's guests were chosen to represent different aspects of gay life. For
example, some were celebrities such as singers and actors, while others included
doctors and ordinary Chinese. Zheng also conducted interviews at a gay bar
called Destination in Beijing's Sanlitun nightclub area.
"I just want to give more information, especially to non-gay people," he
explained. "They know very little about gay life."
But despite the warming climate in China for gays, the show also indicates
how much more progress the country needs to make.
Zheng thinks the Internet format of the show worked well because content is
archived online at www.phoenixtv.com and viewers can watch it at their
convenience. But he also acknowledged that the authorities monitored the
show's content carefully, though he declined to cite specific examples
So far, 16 million people have logged on to watch the talk show, which had 12
"There are many people in China's gay community, but people don't have a deep
enough understanding about this community," the show's producer Gang
Gang said before the debut. "This community faces a lot of trouble and
Zheng said his family, especially his brother, have been very supportive of
his decisions. But many of his friends have not been as fortunate - which partly
motivated him to host the show.
"Discrimination is very common in a society," Zheng explained, adding that he
thinks that younger generations are slowly changing this behavior and that this
is an international norm.
The show aired through the year's second three-month programming season.
Zheng said he is unsure if he will be asked to do something similar for another
Zheng hopes in the near future to produce some special reports and conduct
more interviews. His goal is to speak with high-level international officials
such as the mayor of Paris to ask them about the government's role in
legislating rules related to homosexuals. He said these interviews could serve
as possible models for Chinese behavior.
"I just want to speak out about gay life in China."