GUANGZHOU: More than 100 gay men in this southern city protested this week against recent actions by the police to push them out of a park frequented by homosexuals.
The protest was held Tuesday night in People's Park, not far from the Guangzhou municipal government building, said Ah Qiang, a volunteer of a Guangzhou-based gay organization.
"The park is open for everyone," Ah said. "Why are we not allowed to stay here?"
Sometime during the night, the protesters verbally clashed with police officers after park guards asked the large group to leave the premises.
A video of the protest was later posted at tudou.com, resulting in strong debates among local citizens.
"But, we eventually got the police to leave the park," Ah said. The park, according to both the police and the organization, is a popular gathering spot for male homosexuals. About 100 gay people meet there each day, Ah said.
A police officer with the Guangwei subdistrict public security station, who declined to be identified, said the move to ask homosexuals to leave the park was a preventive measure because gay people are allegedly committing crime in the park.
"An increasing number of local citizens have told us they have been harassed by gay people in the park," the unnamed officer said.
The officer also said homosexuals are committing minor crimes such as robbery and stealing.
"We can hardly distinguish those who have harassed local citizens. That is why we have to push all of them out," he said.
Ah Qiang refuted the police officer's claim and said that male homosexuals are the victims of crimes, not the perpetrators. Many gay people are robbed in the park, he said.
"Police should protect us from being victims of such crimes, instead of pushing us away," said Ah, who added that fewer gay people dare to enter the park after the police's recent action.
Ah said his group has about 30 volunteers in Guangzhou and they go to the park to educate others about safe sex.
"We also have discussions with gay people to behave decently in the park. Otherwise, they will be pushed away by police given the city's strengthened efforts to prepare for next year's Asian Games," he said.
Some gay people and volunteers were questioned in the park's public security house for several hours before the protest, he said.
"As far as I know, all people who were questioned in the public security house have been set free," Ah said.
(China Daily 08/29/2009 page2)