As many as 190 gay rights organisations from across China on Tuesday released a joint letter condemning terrorism and sexuality-based violence following the massacre in Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people before being shot dead.
It is rare for China’s gay rights groups to make high-profile statements and even rarer for them to show solidarity with a cause involving foreigners.
State media called it the “largest coordinated effort” by the country’s gay rights groups, which usually maintain a low profile while fighting for their own rights.
“We, the members of China's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, wish to express our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families, friends, and loved ones, and all those affected by this monstrous act,” read the letter released by the organisations and quoted by state media.
“Together with them, we grieve the loss of so many innocent lives and strongly condemn terrorism and all forms of violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,” the letter said.
Investigators in the US are probing terror links and whether the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was homophobic. Reports said Mateen was himself a regular at the gay club where the massacre took place on Sunday.
But the worst mass shooting in the US – often considered as China’s adversary in world affairs and international diplomacy – touched a chord among many in this country.
Homosexuality is not illegal in China but same sex marriages are, and people with alternative sexual orientation continue to be harassed and discriminated against. Homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses in 2001.
“The massacre is a reminder that homophobia and transphobia are still prevalent and causing devastation throughout our world today. Although private ownership of guns is banned in China, other forms of violence, such as conversion therapies, bullying of LGBTQ youth in schools and other discriminatory treatment occur on a daily basis,” Peng Yanhui, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, told Global Times newspaper.
“We haven't made specific plans but we would like to take this opportunity to participate in future initiatives proposed by US LGBTQ groups as part of a global campaign,” Peng said.
China’s top leadership, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, has expressed condolences over the shootings. On Monday, Xi called his American counterpart Barack Obama to express sympathy.