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Restrictions on homosexuality have relaxed in recent years, but state still keeps a watchful eye.
Steven, a softly spoken and handsome salesman from northern China’s Liaoning province was one of the eight contestants.
“You can say I was already prepared for this outcome, but then you can say I wasn’t prepared because we were just about to start when the police stopped it,” he laughs nervously. “I am a little disappointed. You know you can’t control this so there’s no point in getting too upset.”
Meanwhile, Simon, another contestant, was dancing for the cameras dressed in his costume for the contest — mauve furry shoulder pads, black elastic straps across his bare chest and dark jeans.
“Being gay has made me what I am today!” the 26 year old from the northern city of Harbin shouted, waving his arms to a tinny recording of Lady Gaga.
The winner of Mr. Gay China would have gone on to compete in the Worldwide Mr. Gay competition being held in Oslo next month.
The man in charge of recruiting Asian contestants, Pilipino Dennis Sebatsian, had flown in specially to watch this historic moment.
“It’s crazy. It’s terrible,” he said. This year India, Hong Kong and the Philippines will be the only regions in Asia represented at the international competition.
As well as judging men on their good looks and body shape, the winner is expected to represent his community and “speak out for equal and human rights,” according to the competition’s website. Something which China may not have been too happy about.
What is curious, however, is the police’s choice of timing. Zhang had held a press conference the previous Sunday with western media and everyone had rehearsed the event the night before at the club. But it wasn’t until moments before the show was due to begin and with half of Beijing’s press corps milling about that the police warned Zhang against holding the event.
Ryan Dutcher, Zhang’s boyfriend and co-organizer of Mr. Gay China, smiled tiredly when asked why he thought the police had waited until then to stop the show.
“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” he said, adding that their timing put Mr. Gay China at the top of the news billing.
“Mr. Gay China is a much bigger story now. I just got off the phone with the BBC — a live phone in — they talked about Haiti and the death toll and then it was over to me.”