The Mr. Gay World 2019 male pageant grand finale was set to occur in Hong Kong, but the Hong Kong Free Press is reporting that organizers have cancelled and relocated the event to South Africa following “a clampdown by Chinese authorities on LGBTQ-affirming events and campaigns.”
Although Hong Kong has its own currency, flag, Olympic team, anthem, judicial and immigration systems, the country is officially part of China. Despite that fact, it doesn’t seem like this is a case of China micro-managing the internal affairs of Hong Kong. Rather, the issue seems to be that the business organizing the Mr. Gay World 2019 event is located on mainland China.
While homosexuality is technically legal in China, the Chinese government has a history of harassing, surveilling and imprisoning LGBTQ activists. China doesn’t offer legalized same-sex marriage, and mainland clinics use electroshock “conversion therapy” to turn LGBTQ people straight. (It doesn’t work.) The government uses anti-gay textbooks in schools and has banned any depictions of LGBTQ people on TV, categorizing them alongside depictions of incest and sexual abuse.
In an official statement released late last week, Eric Butter, president and founder of Mr. Gay World, wrote, “It is with great disappointment that I’ve been informed that Mr. Gay World will not be able to go ahead in Hong Kong due to the struggles that our Chinese colleagues and their families are facing in their homeland.”
As such, Mr. Gay World 2019, which will run from April 28 to May 4, 2019, has been relocated to Cape Town, South Africa.
Australia’s Jordan Bruno, the currently reigning Mr. Gay World 2018, said, “I’m disappointed in the Chinese authorities for being unwilling to celebrate and uphold LGBTQ equality, but their stance demonstrates why Mr. Gay World is still such a relevant and important competition.”
Hong Kong was initially chosen as the host city for Mr. Gay World 2019 because it’s a popular destination for LGBTQ tourists. The region repealed its colonial-era laws criminalizing homosexuality in 1991; it currently has laws forbidding anti-gay discrimination by the government and has had virtually no instances of anti-LGBTQ violence.
That said, Hong Kong lags behind Western countries in terms of legal rights. The region lacks comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, marriage equality and same-sex adoption rights. It also requires trans citizens to undergo a full gender confirmation surgery before changing any gender markers on ID, something the United Nations denounces as inhumane since it renders people sterile.
Mr. Gay World 2018 is a four-day challenge to determine which man best represents his national spirit while serving as an ambassador for LGBTQ rights worldwide. Winners must conduct a campaign for the benefit of the LGBTQ community, create a video message sharing their vision for a more accepting world and, for the grand finale, they undergo a gauntlet of tasks showing off their knowledge of world LGBTQ history, athletic ability and good looks in a formal wear, swimwear and a cultural costume runway walk.