Mr Gay World – an international contest for gay men – has cancelled its 2019 Hong Kong event owing to “a clampdown by Chinese authorities on LGBTQ affirming events and campaigns.”
The organisers said in a statement on Friday that the local hosting company, which is located in mainland China, said that it could not proceed with organising the contest. The event, set to be held from April 28 to May 4 2019, will instead move to Cape Town, South Africa.
“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,” said Eric Butter, president and founder of Mr Gay World.
“The safety of our delegates and their families is of utmost importance,” he added.
Igor Scheurkogel, board chair of Mr Gay World, told HKFP that he could not give an exact account of what happened to the hosting company, and declined to disclose the identities of people affected by the clampdown due to safety concerns.
“The last communication received from the liaison between MGW and the organisers reads as follows: ‘The issue is that the Chinese authority is coming down hard on the company and has issued a warning that it stop promoting LGBT rights, activities (commercial or otherwise) in China,’” Scheurkogel said.
Scheurkogel said that Mr Gay World realised in early August that the hosting company stopped responding to emails and social media communication.
‘Long way to go’
Mr Gay World announced on June 22 that it had selected Hong Kong as its 2019 host. At the time, a statement noted that the decision was made “on the strength of [Hong Kong] being a popular destination for global supporters of the LGBTQ+ community.”
However, the June statement also noted that the city had a long way to go, as same-sex marriage and civil unions are still not recognised.
The statement also quoted Charles Sun, president of Yunqiaoshang, the local organising committee.
“We were obviously quite excited at the news that Mr Gay World has chosen us as the host city,” Sun said. “We have many challenges in our country, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. But we are hoping that our government will see the financial benefits events like these have on our economy.”
The current Mr Gay World, Jordan Bruno from Australia, said he was “disappointed” that the Chinese authorities were unwilling to celebrate and uphold LGBTQ equality.
Organisers say the annual event seeks to find ambassadors for LGBTQ rights who embody the spirit of their nation.
In 2015, Emmanuel Mass Luciano, Mr Gay Hong Kong, became Mr Gay World after the original winner stepped down seven months after being awarded the title.
Hong Kong has also been chosen to host the Gay Games, a separate LGBTQ event, in 2022.