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Chinese chat site column promotes stereotypes

Same-sex debate suspended on website

Last month the local Chinese-language community newspaper New Star Weekly published an article denouncing same-sex marriage and likening homosexuality to bestiality and incest.

The article, by a popular Chinese-language columnist who writes under the name “Red Ant,” sparked a flurry of activity on the paper’s website, Newstarnet.com. Similar exchanges on another local Chinese-language website, Rolia.net, has led to related forums being shut down.

“Every single hurtful and harmful stereotype, he pulled out of the hat,” says Kristyn Wong-Tam, a board member of the Chinese Canadian National Council’s Toronto chapter (CCNCTO). “If this was published in The Annex Gleaner, for sure we’d have the editor’s head on a platter for publishing something we’d consider as hate.”

The CCNCTO is preparing a letter calling for an apology from New Star Weekly, known in Chinese as Xing Xing Weekly, and challenging the author of the article to step forward.

Red Ant’s articles regularly appear on websites frequented by Chinese immigrants looking for jobs, housing and general information on adjusting to life in Canada. He writes about everything from renting an apartment to buying gas.

Pseudonymous writers are common in China, where people typically use false names to avoid repercussions when criticizing the government or writing about politics. The practice is similarly accepted among Toronto’s mainland Chinese immigrants.

The editorial staff at New Star Weekly, which is printed in traditional Chinese and has a circulation of 13,000, claims not to know the real-life identity of Red Ant.

Jessica Chen, New Star Weekly’s chief operating officer, defends the inclusion of Red Ant’s anti-same-sex marriage column as a way to reflect the variety of views that exist amongst the paper’s readership and points to several positive stories about same-sex marriage, the Pride Parade and profiles on queer Chinese people living in Toronto published in recent weeks.

“This article is just one person’s feelings about same-sex marriage,” says Chen.

Chen says she’s received calls from upset members of the Toronto Tongzhi Club (TTC), a social club for Mandarin-speaking gay men.

“I understand this article might have hurt some feelings,” she says. “But we published five articles that are positive and one article against same-sex marriage. To apologize for one article is not logical.”

TTC’s spokesperson John Pu has already submitted a letter, which New Star Weekly ran on Jul 8. Pu also posted the response on the Mississauga-based Chinese-language website Rolia.net, which sparked another heated debate on homosexuality. Rolia.net’s system administrator reacted by deleting all posts about same-sex marriage and banning any new threads on gay-related topics.

Pu, a 34-year-old mechanical engineer who has lived in Toronto for seven years, says he’s angry with Rolia.net’s decision, arguing that shutting down all discussion on homosexuality will only further marginalize queers in the Chinese community.

“The fact is they did not simply set [the related message-board discussions] to read-only, they deleted all existing threads about gay marriage,” says Pu. “How dare they? We didn’t violate any existing rules. We were just setting the record straight.”

“We want to be part of the community, we want to be treated equally,” says Daniel Li, another regular at Rolia.net. “We understand this is a very sensitive topic so we choose our words carefully. But people always try to direct things into a bad direction. They say, ‘You are sick. You are insane. Why don’t you go fuck your dog?'”

Rolia.net’s owner declined to comment.

Pu says TTC has not yet decided on an official response to Red Ant and other offensive message board users.