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‘Three Billboards’ Campaign Calls out Gay Conversion Therapy in China

2 minute read

To protest homosexual “conversion therapy” in China, an artist and a police officer are sending trucks emblazoned with bright red signage through major cities across the country.

They say their unusually confrontational approach was inspired by the 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Agence France-Presse reports. The film is based on a real-life story of a Texas family that rented highway billboards to draw attention to an unsolved rape and murder.

Three Billboards was about raising and questioning unresolved issues. We wanted to also use this format to raise doubts [regarding conversion therapy],” Wu Qiong, the artist, told AFP.

Homosexuality was officially decriminalized in China in 1997, and cleared from the list of “mental illnesses” in 2001. But the LGBTQ community still faces widespread discrimination, and medical guidelines include ambiguous terms like “sexual orientation disorders,” according to AFP.

Public hospitals and private clinics also continue to offer sexual “conversion therapy,” a 2017 Human Rights Watch investigation found. Patients, many of whom are admitted against their will, are subjected to “coercion and threats, physical abduction, arbitrary confinement, forced medication and injection, and use of electroshocks.”

Read more: China: ‘Conversion Therapy’ Underscores Lack of LGBT Rights

The new trucks campaign began last weekend in Shanghai and will roll through eight cities. New trucks will be rented in each location due to restrictions on inter-city trucking, according to AFP. Each truck will bear slogans calling out therapy’s use on a “non-existent disease.”

The initiative has already garnered millions of views on social media in China, where such bold campaigns are rare.

“The space for public opinion on LGBT-related topics in China is getting smaller and smaller,” Wu said. “Our ultimate goal is for more people to talk about this.”

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com