26th September 2014 London, UK

Promoting LGBT rights in China

It’s not always easy to promote human rights in China. But people do care. In particular, our statements supporting LGBT rights always achieve a great deal of attention, most of which is very positive. This is despite China refusing to legally recognise same-sex couples and homosexuals face widespread stigma.

On 6 September, Brian Davidson, our Consul General in Shanghai and his partner Scott celebrated their wedding. This was one of the first same-sex marriages registered on UK diplomatic premises in China, made possible thanks to the recent change in UK law. Brian and Scott kindly allowed us to use their wedding as an opportunity to promote LGBT rights in China.


Brian: ‘I feel very proud that, under UK law, I now have the same rights as everyone else in Britain to marry who I choose. It is one practical sign of how my country values the principle of Equality for all. On a more personal note, it means a lot to both of us to be able to stand before our families and friends – British, American and Chinese – and commit to spending the rest of our lives together.’ [The stats indicate that this post has been read almost 20 million times, with 33,788 likes, 31,099 retweets, and 19,761 comments.]

We used three Weibo accounts to amplify the key message on LGBT rights, including Brian’s, our Ambassador Sir Sebastian Wood’s and the Embassy’s official Weibo accounts, including a common hashtag #LoveIsGREAT.

The response from netizens was enormous, both in scale and positivity. Over 38,000 tweets used our hashtag #LoveIsGREAT. The vast majority (90%) of comments were very positive. The 31,217 (and rising) retweets for Brian’s message (above) is a record for the China network (and possibly the FCO) – our previous best was around 15,000.

Those commenting sent their best wishes to the couple and praised the UK’s openness, inclusiveness and diversity. #Same-sex civil marriage# became the hottest topic on Sina weibo after we promoted Brian’s wedding (image below) – a major achievement. Although around 10% of the comments were negative, we succeeded in providing a platform for netizens to debate and discuss the issue.


Netizens even set up a topic page to debate whether to support same-sex marriage (image below). This page has reached over one million views, and the debate function has encouraged many people to stand for their opinion. ‘Red’ equals support, with ‘Blue’ opposing. This illustrates the scale of support for gay marriage.


Despite the restrictions on public statements in China, this campaign clearly indicated that China’s younger tech-savvy citizens accept same-sex relations and have an appetite to debate traditionally taboo topics. The results of this activity are evidence of the impact that the UK can have when we talk directly with people on issues where we have a good story to tell and can draw on our own experience. Chinese citizens are eager to engage with the wider world and this is an opportunity to make issues we care about issues they care about too.