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China may not have Ellen or Rosie, but as of April 5 it has Didier-Zheng, the country's first openly gay talk show host. Zheng, 27, hosts the online program Tong Xing Xianglian, or "connecting homosexuals." Zheng, an AIDS and minority rights activist, was chosen from more than 800 applicants, says the show's producer, Gang Gang. Zheng's weekly, interactive, hourlong program, scheduled for 12 episodes, is broadcast on PhoenixTV.com, Sina.com, QQ.com, and Mop.com. It's produced by the Hong Kong- based media company behind the Phoenix satellite TV channel. Shows airing only online are less subject to censorship than those broadcast on television.
The first guest on the show was Qiao Qiao, a 28-year-old lesbian singer who runs a women's bar in Beijing and recently recorded the song "Ai bu fen," or "Love Doesn't Discriminate." She took questions from the audience, noting it was easier talking about her sexuality in front of thousands of Internet viewers than with her parents.
The show reflects slowly changing attitudes in China. Sodomy was decriminalized in 1997, though homosexuality was still considered a mental illness by the government until 2001. Gay movies are banned from theaters and TV, and patrons of gay bars may encounter police harassment. The Asia-Europe
Foundation has stated that China's policy toward gays remains the "three nos": no approval, no disapproval, and no promotion.
Zheng is hopeful, noting, "China is a country which has a long history of gay culture. Because of that, changes are coming much faster in this country."