A GAY Chinese man is suing a mental health clinic for carrying out electric shock treatment meant to turn him heterosexual.
Yang Teng yesterday also revealed he planned to sue the internet search engine Baidu for advertising the clinic which he attended.
The Beijing LGBT Centre, which campaigns for gay rights, said it was the first court case involving “conversion therapy” in China. China only declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 2001.
The centre’s executive director, Xin Ying, said some professional hospitals in China, as well as smaller private clinics, still provide the so-called therapy.
Mr Xin said his organisation hoped the case at Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing would lead to a ban on clinics offering such treatment.
Mr Yang, 30, said the therapy he received included hypnosis and electric shocks and he had suffered physical and mental pain and discomfort.
He said he had voluntarily undergone the therapy in February following pressure from his parents to get married and father a child.
“My hometown is a small city, and people there still care about carrying on the family line,” Mr Yang said, adding that now he felt he could finally accept his sexual identity as a gay man.
His lawyer, Li Duilong, said Mr Yang was suing the Chongqing Xinyu Piaoxiang clinic for infringing his personal and health rights because doctors there told him electric shock treatment was not dangerous but it had in fact caused him harm.
He also said that Baidu bore joint liability because it carried the advertisement for the clinic and the services it provided.
The lawyer said part of their argument was that homosexuality was not a disease and should not be treated as such.
“According to the law, both sides should sign an agreement before electric shock or hypnosis is carried out, but the clinic did not offer,” said Mr Li. “The staff told my client the electric shock felt like ‘being bitten by a mosquito’ but it turned out not to be.”
A man at the clinic in south-west Chongqing city said he had no comment and hung up. Baidu said in an e-mailed statement that it would not comment on an active lawsuit.
The lawyer said they were asking for compensation of more than 14,000 yuan (£1,400) to cover the cost of the therapy, the plane journey to Chongqing and lost earnings due to the trip. In addition, they were demanding an apology on the websites of both companies, he said.
Mr Li said a judgment should be issued within six months.
A court duty official said he had no information about the case and referred calls to the general office where they yesterday declined to comment.
The Beijing LGBT Centre organised a demonstration outside the court ahead of yesterday’s hearing, with a handful of people holding banners with slogans including “Homosexuality is not a disease, we don’t need to be cured.”
Some protesters pretended to be doctors who simulated giving another demonstrator lying on the pavement electric shock treatment.
Chinese society is increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians, although same-sex partnerships are not recognised and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not outlawed.