An advertisement appearing to feature a same-sex couple in China has been praised by the LGBTQ community for its rare portrayal of gay relationships in the tightly-censored country.
China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 but same-sex marriage remains illegal and recent years have seen a crackdown on LGBTQ activists and the wider gay community — including on films and social media content.
The 23-second ad by Tmall — an e-commerce platform owned by tech giant Alibaba — shows a young man introducing another man to his family over the Lunar New Year holiday.
His father looks on curiously when the newcomer, “Kelvin”, arrives at their home, and two girls giggle and exchange knowing glances.
The clip ends with Kelvin accepting a serving of food from his partner’s father and calling him “Dad”.
This causes the family to fall silent around the table.
The video has been circulating widely on social media since Wednesday, garnering mostly supportive comments from internet users.
Lovematters, a popular gay-themed account on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, thanked Tmall for supporting the LGBTQ community, and called the video “humourous and interesting” in a post shared more than 32,600 times.
Raymond Phang, co-founder of LGBTQ festival Shanghai Pride, told AFP the ad was a “brilliant idea”, touching on family inclusion during an important festival.
Phang said “the LGBTQ community is often not mentioned (and) has zero visibility in online content”.
Duan, a member of Beijing’s LGBTQ Centre who declined to give his full name, said other companies have also used LGBTQ themes in online campaigns, including a poster by another e-commerce firm, Dangdang, showing two men holding hands.
The Tmall advert is a step forward for the visibility of LGBTQ people in China, Duan added.
“We are glad to see that and encourage it,” he said.
In April last year, a Beijing court dismissed an appeal against recently-enforced rules by the national media watchdog which ban gay content in film and television and describe homosexuality as “abnormal”.
Online marketplace Taobao — also owned by Alibaba — in 2018 shut down shops selling rainbow flags and clothing with queer phrases.