Chinese courts recently saw what was probably the country’s first discrimination case focussing on the treatment of a homosexual individual in the workplace. Liu Xiaohu, the lawyer of the plaintiff, has said that the case “will definitely have an impact” on China and the way in which the country views issues of LGBT rights.
The plaintiff, who first filed his case in November and is using the pseudonym Mu Yi, was dismissed from his job, and alleges that this was because of his sexuality. He claims that he was outed as gay after an online video, which was filmed by police and showed him and another gay man arguing, went viral. It was the revelation of his sexuality, he alleges, which led his employer to fire him from his role as a designer.
His employer maintains that “Mu Yi’s” dismissal was not a result of his being revealed as a homosexual, and was not related to his sexual orientation. Yangcheng Evening News reports that the company claims that inappropriate workplace attire and a “poor service attitude” were in fact the reasons for the decision to fire the plaintiff.
It is believed to be the first workplace discrimination case in China to deal with issues of sexual orientation. The Chinese office of PFLAG, a rights advocacy group, believes this to be the case.
The Nanshan District People’s Court, which is in the city of Shenzhen in the south of China, heard the case. A decision on the verdict is expected to be reached at some point within the coming three months, according to Mr Lui. The lawyer described himself and his client as “very optimistic” about the outcome of the case.
The Chinese government only took the decision to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997 – much later than many other countries. Even after it ceased to be a criminal offence, it was still officially listed as a mental illness until 2001. In the relatively short time since, Chinese society has become noticeably more tolerant of homosexuality, especially in the bigger cities, but nonetheless conservative attitudes remain prevalent. Discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace is more common than in many other parts of the world, and this means that the decision reached in this case has the potential to be a landmark of considerable importance to other individuals.
According to Yangcheng Evening News, Mu is seeking compensation of 50,000 yuan along with an apology.