Kicking against the BRICs

Compared to the hubbub over Google\’s threats, media coverage of the banning of China\’s first \’gay pageant\’ was limited, but gave an interesting snapshot of something. I\’m just not sure what.

The Guardian had reported on plans for the event on 10 January, with organiser Steve Zhang suggesting that police could yet shut it down. And so they did. But this seemed to be very polite repression: police were reported to have had friendly conversations with the participants, who were told that homosexuality was a \’sensitive issue\’. Very different in tone to Russia, where \’gay pride\’ and similar events are regularly and violently broken up by police (and nationalist counter-demonstrations).

If the demonstration had been by a political opposition group, the situation would probably be reversed. Russia is a democracy, albeit a compromised and autocratic one, and opposition parties are at least tolerated. The harsh treatment of pro-democracy activists in China shows that ideological pluralism is still seen as a dangerous threat to stability. You can bet that Google searches for gay dating sites would be far easier to get past China\’s internet censors than phrases like \’Tiananmen Square protests\’.

At which point one starts to wander dangerously close to sweeping generalisations about value systems and cultural heritage, confucianism and christianity. One culture is concerned about social cohesion and harmony, the other about personal behaviour and sin. Both can be repressive, but in different ways and to different people.

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