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1996 Chinese Tongzhi Conference Manifesto

    About 200 Chinese tongzhi (lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgendered people) from different regions gathered in Hong Kong to participate in the "1996 Chinese Tongzhi Conference" from Dec 6 - 8,1996. The Conference discussed a number of tongzhi-related issues, including culture and arts, social services, AIDS issues, bisexuality, and lesbian politics. There was an extensive discussion regarding the specificity of the cultural context and needs of Chinese tongzhi. Participants concluded that it is unnecessary to copy the model of les-bi-gay liberation movement in the Anglo-Saxon societies, which is characterized by individualism and confrontational politics and agreed that Chinese tongzhi movement should be cultural-specific.

Manifesto of Chinese Tongzhi Conference

  1. Same Sex Love Always Exists
      Same sex Love has existed in all cultures since ancient times. Scholars find that many cultures are tolerant towards homosexuality and bisexuality. In addition, sexual behavior among members of the same sex has been observed in animals. The authoritative Kinsey Report revealed that of the nearly ten thousand adults being interviewed, approximately 10% were classified as homosexuals.

  2. Same Sex Love is Being Discriminated Against
      Regardless of the number of homosexuals and bisexuals in the world, the issue is whether this group of people is being discriminated against by the mainstream society. The contemporary society remains heterosexist. The mainstream sexual discourses in mass media, the educational system and legal structure is predicated upon a reproductive, monogamous social structure. The les-bi-gay world is often being viewed in a voyeuristic, derogatory way. This causes many tongzhi to feel ashamed and guilty. Many tongzhi have to disguise themselves as "normal" heterosexuals in the public and lead a secretive double-life, which can cause destructive psychological damage to their personal development.

  3. Traditional Chinese Society was Tolerant Towards Same Sex Love
      Many people mistakenly criticize Chinese culture as sexually repressive and conservative. Some even think that homosexuality is a corrupt import from the West. In fact, traditional Chinese culture was tolerant towards same sex love. Mencius says, "The joy of eating and sex are natural human desires," both of which have no association with sin or guilt. Buddhism, a religion which has been well assimilated into the Chinese culture for 2,000 years, neither advocates heterosexuality nor denounces homosexuality, and emphasizes the notion of bodichitta, which means that all beings have the potential to become Buddha. Historical documentation also reveals the high level of social tolerance towards same sex love in pre-modern China.

  4. Hostility and Violence Against Homosexuality is not Found in Traditional Chinese Culture
      Hostility and violence, such as harsh legal punishment, bashing or lynching of same sex lovers cannot be found in historical records of pre-modern China. For instance, the introduction of a sodomy law in Hong Kong in 1865, which could sentence two consenting male adults to life imprisonment, was the result of British colonial rule. What was brought from the West to China was not same sex love, but the sin associated with it in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which significantly contributed to the homophobia found in modern Chinese societies.

  5. Increased Exchanges Among Tongzhi in Chinese Societies is Beneficial
      In recent years, there have been encouraging developments in the tongzhi communities of mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Cultural exchanges among tongzhi in different Chinese societies can help tongzhi to reclaim self esteem and to develop a healthy personality. Moreover, the accurate representation and positive visibility of the tongzhi community can correct misunderstandings of the mainstream society.

  6. Confrontational Politics in the West Should Not be Imposed Upon Chinese Societies
      The les-bi-gay movement in many Western societies is largely built upon the notion of individualism, confrontational politics, and the discourse of individual rights. Certain characteristics of confrontational politics, such as "coming out," mass protests, and parades may not be the best way of achieving tongzhi liberation in the family-centered, community-oriented Chinese societies, which stress the importance of social harmony. In formulating the tongzhi movement strategy, we should take the specific socio-economic and cultural environment of each society into consideration.

  7. We Should Respect Each Other Regardless of Sexual Orientation
      We are a group of Chinese tongzhi, unashamed and proud of who we are. While we do not deny our sexual orientation, we do not advertise the sexual aspect of our life. If the society can deal with this issue without prejudice, everyone, tongzhi or otherwise, need not highlight her or his sexuality. People should respect each other as individuals, regardless of sexual orientation and other social differences. With this goal in mind, together we can build a better society.


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