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  1. ITV Report

Trucks tour China to tackle LGBTQ stigma as dozens of clinics offer electro-shock therapy to 'cure homosexuality'

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

A group of artists have launched an unusual campaign aimed at tackling the almost 100 gay conversion clinics in China that claim homosexuality can be cured with electro-shock therapy.

The campaign involves three red trucks touring the country, all bearing a sequence of Chinese characters that ask a controversial question: Why in 2019 homosexuality is still categorised as a mental disorder?

They're inspired by the film Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri - where a mother uses adverts to draw attention to her daughter's unsolved murder.

The trucks bear messages asking why homosexuality is still considered a mental disorder. Credit: ITV News

The vans are the idea of a group of young artists who want conversion therapy to be banned in China. They also want references to 'sexual orientation disorder' removed from psychiatric texts.

In secret filming provided to ITV News, one of the campaigners, Wu Laobai, went undercover at a clinic where he had a consultation with a doctor who told him his sexuality was caused by anxiety.

The doctor said: "You have a psychological disorder. You will need counselling 15-20 times, for three months, and also another therapy is acupuncture, which can re-regulate your brain."

Wu Laobai was told by a doctor his homosexuality was caused by anxiety. Credit: ITV News

He was also taken for a brain scan but said his consultation only made him more determined to carry on with the campaign.

He said: "We have to do something to promote gay rights and abolish these clinics which claim to make people straight."

Xiao Zhen, who was subjected to electro-shock treatment five years ago, says the 'therapy' doesn't cause "strong physical harm but it's frightening".

Xiao Zhen told ITV News how 'every day the LGBT community experience harmful discrimination'. Credit: ITV News

Despite homosexuality in China being legalised over 20 years ago and regular Pride events taking place in big cities like Shanghai, there remains a lack of understanding and acceptance.

Xiao Zhen says there is more awareness around homosexuality in China, but not much progress "because every day the LGBT community experience harmful discrimination in school, in their family, in the society".

LGBT content is still heavily censored and in some cases it is banned on television, in print and online. It is believed most of the estimated 70 million homosexual men and women in China are not openly gay.

There are regular, well-supported Pride events in big cities throughout China.

One person told ITV News: "I think gays are bad, because a man and a woman are meant to be together."

ITV News contacted the conversion clinic where undercover filming was recorded but they did not respond to the issues raised.