Thursday, May 07, 2015

Classical music's reality distortion field needs challenging

Yes, I said I would stay off this subject for a while, but classical music's reality distortion field really needs challenging. With humanitarian activist Joyce DiDonato tweeting about disappearing behind the Great Firewall, I searched in vain among her copious tweets for any comment about human rights and freedom of expression in China. So here, to balance that puzzling silence, are some links. For a full account of how dissenting voices among China's 641 million internet users are selectively silenced read Reporters Without Frontiers. Unlike Oman and Singapore, where Ms DiDonato has just performed, homosexuality is not a criminal offence in China. But Human Rights Watch puts this superficially liberal position into perspective:
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: The Chinese government classified homosexuality as a mental illness until 2001. To date there is still no law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which remains common especially in the workplace. Same-sex partnership and marriage are not recognized under Chinese law. In February, a lesbian couple attempted to register at the marriage registry in Beijing but their application was rejected. On May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Changsha city authorities detained Xiang Xiaohan, an organizer of a local gay pride parade, and held him for 12 days for organizing an “illegal march.” In China, demonstrations require prior permission, which is rarely granted.
LGBT discrimination is just one example of China's wide-ranging human rights infringements. With China the touring destination of choice for celebrity musicians and orchestras, the following summary from the 2014 Human Rights Watch report should be noted: "China places arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion; prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations; and maintains Party control over all judicial institutions". It is a personal decision whether classical musicians tour China. But speaking out against Russia's anti-gay propaganda law while remaining silent on the well-documented human rights abuses in China is, in my view, distorting reality to an unacceptable degree.

* More on distortion fields in Let's stop pretending classical music will change the world.

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