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Chinese Social Media Nationalists Attack LGBTQ Film Festival Run By Foreign Consulates

China Germany Guangzhou festival
2021 LGBTI+ Film Festival Guangzhou

Nationalist users on Chinese social media platform Weibo have attacked foreign consulates in the southern capital of Guangzhou for seeking to “bring down China” with an LGBTQ film festival jointly hosted by 17 foreign governments.

Such users say they have flooded the platform’s censors with reports that posts about the festival are politically problematic, seeking to get them banned. An account named “German Consulate in Guangzhou” was indeed banned, although the German diplomatic mission clarified that it was not an official account.

Foreign embassies in China frequently host film screenings, talks and cultural events about sensitive topics that typically couldn’t take place outside their premises. Li Dan, the curator of the China Women’s Film Festival who works closely with international embassies on these sorts of film showcases, said the invective comes from “a trend of growing nationalism among young people.”

The month-long “2021 LGBTI Film Festival Guangzhou” begins Saturday and consists of 18 one-off screenings of films and shorts on LGBTQ topics at different foreign consulates. They will be attended by a limited number of people who have registered ahead of time.

Among the works set to screen are Celine Sciamma’s 2019 Cannes competition period romance “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which won her the prize for best screenplay; “No Ordinary Man,” the new documentary about transgender icon Billy Tipton; the Israeli romantic drama “Out in the Dark,” which premiered at Toronto; Denmark’s “A Perfectly Normal Family,” about a father coming to terms with his transgender identity; and New Zealand’s “Rurangi,” recently picked up for the U.S. by Hulu, among others.

The U.S. consulate will screen the 2017 doc “The Lavender Scare” about the American government’s persecution of homosexuals and those suspected of being gay in the name of “national security.”

In a Weibo post promoting the festival, the official account British consulate in Guangzhou wrote that the series “aims to show LGBT-themed films to allow homosexual, bisexual, transgender and other queer gendered people to boost their self-knowledge and to increase tolerance and acceptance of diversity.”

It concluded with the hashtag “#Love is GREAT!”

Angry commenters are calling for like-minded compatriots to file complaints against the post and others similar to it, with hundreds writing screeds attacking the consulates for “spreading poison” with such statements, calling on them to “beat it back to your own country.”

Much of the derision hinges on the idea that foreign governments promoting LGBTQ awareness and acceptance are part of an attempt to subvert China’s political values and system.

“We don’t discriminate against LGBT [people] but firmly oppose the politicization of LGBT [ideas] and the overt dissemination of LGBT culture,” one said.

Another chimed in: “They are trying in vain to magnify our differences to create fissures in our society.”

Li explained that, lately, LGBTQ issues and feminism “are seen by angry young patriots as an anti-China conspiracy carried out by Europe and the U.S.”

“These nationalists see [the Weibo posts] as a part of that conspiracy,” he said.

Many of these users are calling for payback against the consulates, since Twitter has in the past temporarily frozen accounts of Chinese embassies and diplomats abroad, often in response to comments deemed culturally insensitive or “dehumanizing,” in the company’s terms.

“How many accounts of our foreign embassies have been blocked on Twitter? Proper behavior is based on reciprocity,” one popular comment read. “We will exercise our right to freely ban accounts against any embassy that dares to make trouble on our country’s platforms!”

Correction: An original version of this story said that Weibo had banned the German Guangzhou Consulate’s official account. The account banned was not a verified official account, only an account with its name.