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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds On February 14, 2009, Valentine’s Day, two gorgeously dressed couples were seen taking wedding pictures on Qianmen Avenue, a popular tourist destination in the heart of Beijing.

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds Onlookers quickly noticed the unusualness of this event: one woman was adoringly embracing the other woman; one man was presenting a bouquet of roses to the other man. Hundreds of people stopped to watch. Many expressed their opinions on homosexuality, marriage, and family.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds This seemingly personal incident was actually a meticulously planned performance. The two couples were not lovers in real life. The event was organized jointly by several activist groups in Beijing’s LGBT community. The organizing team chose the site carefully and designed the sequence of activities. Prior to the event, they also prepared hundreds of roses wrapped with flyers.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds This clip is from the documentary New Beijing, New Marriage produced by Fan Popo, a documentary filmmaker, and a member of the organizing team for this event. Reporters showed up soon after the event started. The young couples talked about their personal stories in front of the reporters, and earnestly asked the public to respect the LGBT community. Zhangyi, of the male couple, said that he was depressed for many years because he had to hide his sexual orientation. When he finally came out, he felt much better. He said, “The people you know, your classmates, your relatives, your colleagues at work may actually be in the same situation as I was. They like the same sex, but they can’t let others know.”

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 seconds Walking down the avenue, the two couples, together with other activists, handed out roses and gave Valentine’s wishes to passersby.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds The flyer wrapped around each rose read: “Everyone are born equal. Love has no boundaries. We are homosexuals. We also hope for love that is blessed by the world. We also hope for marriage that is recognized by law. Please support all the people in love. Please support Chinese LGBT community’s campaign for social equality. May all lovers unite in marriage.”

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds Sina, a leading online news site, published photos of this event. Within a few days, 20,000 comments were left on the site. Many popular newspapers also reported on this event. Till today, it remains the most successful in terms of its effectiveness in raising the visibility of the LGBT community and opening up public discussion on LGBT issues.

Case study: “Qianmen Wedding Photo Shoot”

In 2009 on Valentine’s Day, a performance was staged by LGBT activists on Qianmen Avenue, a popular tourist destination in the heart of Beijing.

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Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

City University of Hong Kong