Chinese Activists Hope Victory Signal End to Gay Conversion

by Winnie McCroy

Associated Press

Sunday December 21, 2014

In the first ruling of its kind in China, a Beijing court said on Friday that a psychiatric counseling center was in the wrong when it attempted to cure a 30-year-old man of homosexuality with a mix of hypnosis and electric shocks.

Towleroad reports that Yang Teng, a 30-year-old man living in Beijing (who was previously quoted under the pseudonym Xiao Zhen), filed a lawsuit against at the Xinyu Piaoxian clinic after being subjected to a routine of hypnosis and electroshock therapy. Teng checked himself into the clinic after being pressured by his family to attempt "curing" himself of his homosexuality, he explained.

"We accomplished our goal, which was to establish that gay conversion is not a legitimate form of therapy," Yang said soon after a decision was made. I'm going to take this verdict and show it to my parents so they can see a Chinese court said homosexuality isn't a mental illness."

As of 2001, the People's Republic no longer recognizes homosexuality as a mental illness. Presiding judge Wang Chenghong based her decision on China's official legal position on homosexuality, reasoning that Teng's gay desires were not something that could be medically treated. The clinic has been ordered to issue an official apology to Teng and to pay damages totaling 3,500 yuan ($563 US.)

"We're incredibly happy," said Teng. The Wall Street Journal reports that Yang earlier told China Real Time that staff at a clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing told him they could cure his homosexuality, then put him in a state of light hypnosis and shocked him with electrodes every time he thought of gay sex.

"In her decision, the judge said that homosexuality is not a disease, therefore the clinic had no basis to undertake treatment," he said.

Homosexuality was removed from China's official list of mental disorders in 2001, but psychiatric counseling centers throughout the country still offer to treat it as if it were a disease. While many people in China are tolerant of or indifferent to homosexuality in the abstract, gay people often face pressure from family members to get married and have children.

Search engine Baidu was also named in the suit. Judge Chenghong ruled the company didn't have to pay compensation but was urged to be mindful of running advertisements for dubious therapeutic services in the future, according to Yan.

"Baidu respects the court's decision," said Kaiser Kuo, spokesman for the company. "We're very glad to see justice served, and we share the opinion that unqualified therapy must be very vigilantly regulated. We hope Yang Teng will find some comfort in the court's ruling."

Advertisements for gay conversion therapy appear to have been removed from Baidu search results.

The decision by the Haidian District Court in northern Beijing ends weeks of tension after the court missed a deadline to issue a ruling in the case. Gay rights activists have said they hoped the lawsuit will help put an end to the practice of "gay conversion" therapy in the country.

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