China: Gays dancing bad, nude pushups good

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More signs that the Beijing Olympics may be among the strangest ever held, in a cultural sense:

Chinese authorities have ordered the hot Beijing gay club Destination to shut its dance floor until further notice, in another sign of a crackdown prior to the Aug. 8 start of the Olympics.

Destination, the city’s only gay club, has had to block off their dance floor. The sight of hundreds of gay men clad in white singlets flirting on the street in the early hours of the morning was too much for [local authorities]. The club was told it was too small to be a club and it had to enlarge before they could let the gay boys dance again. The city’s main gay sauna was raided a couple of months back when some of the workers and patrons were detained for several days and only released after paying “fines,” according to an aids activist. Destination and a string of straight clubs lie alongside Worker’s Stadium, one of the Olympic venues. Because of this, club owners believe they may have to close down altogether during the three weeks of Games because the police are worried about security.

At the same time as authorities basically shut down Destination, the state-run news agency Xinhua runs an article touting that “Beijing’s gay scene comes out of the closet.”

When owners Wang Qiang, "Edmund" Yang and their friends dreamed up Destination three years ago, they wanted to create a place for gays and lesbians to hang out "with dance music in tune with clubs in other major cities such as New York and London".

At weekends, the floor is always crowded with young men dancing close to each other to hit songs from Rihanna, Justin Timberlake or Kanye West. The strobe lights flash over their ecstatic faces and sweating bodies. Some stand in the corner drinking, flirting or just watching. … Today, China's young gay men enjoy a freer environment. With the thriving online gay communities, such as aibai.com, idanlan.com, gays can easily find each other and arrange activities through on-line forums or chat rooms.

The article goes on to say that the government doesn’t bother people at Destination as long as nothing illegal goes on. But it fails to mention the shutting down of the dance floor, which renders the club pretty useless for now.

So, authorities clamp down on a gay dance club at the same time media tout China’s increasing openness towards gays. Then we have the odd case of Guangdong TV news presenter, Ou Zhihang, featured in an Xinua photo essay doing pushups nude at various historic sites around China.

He was snapped in the buff in front of the Bird’s Nest (Beijing’s main Olympic venue, the National Stadium), on the top of the Great Wall, and what should have been very early in the morning in Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Square among others. “I love my country, I also love my body,” Xinhua cites him as saying in his blog. “I contrast my tiny body with the ‘miracle of the world’ through the popular exercise – push ups.” One can only be thankful he chose the push up and not the squat jump.

To recap:

Gays dancing during the Olympics: bad. Doing pushups naked in public places: good and worthy of a photo essay by state-run media. --Jim Buzinski

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