“Political considerations” in cancelling WorldPride Taiwan 2025
For InterPride, the pre-eminent global organisation in advancing the Pride Movement, to have pandered to China is nothing short of shocking.
Taiwan has been at the forefront of international media attention over tensions with China. While the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis – as it will be dubbed – has captured the attention of Western audiences, a lesser-known and perhaps more unnerving story has emerged.
In 2021, the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung won the bid to host WorldPride in 2025, which was slated to be held in East Asia for the first time in the event’s history. However, InterPride, the organiser of WorldPride, dropped Kaohsiung and Taiwan as hosts due to “political considerations”.
Interpride is in the process of applying to the United Nations to receive consultative status as a global representative body. In doing so, it must align with UN requirements, which inadvertently catches the watchful attention of China in light of Beijing’s ever-increasing influence in the UN human rights system. In this process, InterPride has compromised its core values to appease a country that stands in polar opposition to InterPride’s existence, and a government that would never allow an InterPride event to be held within its jurisdiction.
This entire debacle stands to demonstrate China’s hidden influence that extends to even the most unexpected segments of western society. It is comparable to Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch cancelling a planned march in Taipei at Beijing’s insistence.
In the past, countries, companies, and international organisations have shied away from angering China by self-censoring or conforming to Beijing’s demands.
In 2018, China’s Civil Aviation Authority made requests for the removal of any mention of Taiwan to a range of international airlines. Websites now display “Taipei, China” and “Taichung, China” instead of the more accurate “Taipei, Taiwan” or “Taichung, Taiwan”. Major international businesses and law firms have also avoided establishing a strong, or in some cases any, Taiwanese presence in fear of damaging their lucrative access to mainland Chinese markets.
Taiwan is unrecognised as an independent nation by much of the world and even the UN. Its participation on the world stage is so often barred by China’s influence. On the rare occasion the island does participate, it is forced to undergo exceptional naming contortions as a balance between the de facto independence of Taiwan and the need to avoid irritating China.
For instance, “Chinese Taipei” is used in the Olympics, “Taiwan, China” in the World Bank, and most extravagant of all, the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu” in the World Trade Organisation.
These political considerations, created by the People’s Republic, are accepted as commonplace in Taiwan as a nod of acknowledgement to its awkward international position and a price to pay for participation. However, it is unusual and alarming that such considerations have permeated into the bounds of human rights and other fields that are typically unassociated with Beijing.
As the first nation in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, Taiwan, a bright beacon of liberalism and human rights, stands as an almost antithesis to its cousins on the mainland. Although no place is free of discrimination, Taiwan has served as a long-standing haven for LGBTQIA+ persons in East Asia, whilst nearby democracies in Seoul and Tokyo are flailing in their obligations to offer adequate legal protection to their respective LGBTQIA+ communities.
On top of censorship and surveillance issues faced by all Chinese citizens, China’s LGBTQIA+ community is subject to societal prejudice, healthcare discrimination, and intimidation and detention by law enforcement. Despite the nudge towards openness and acceptance in the late 2000s, recent years have seen Xi Jinping mould China into a more conservative, nationalist, and conformist society. In 2021, LGBTQIA+ student societies at several Chinese universities saw their social media accounts closed and censored for unspecified violations, and cracked down on non-masculine “sissy” celebrities.
Yet when it comes to WorldPride 2025, China has used its influence and pressured InterPride to cancel Taiwan’s hosting rights. Industries conducting business on the mainland understandably conform to Beijing’s demands vis-a-vis Taiwan and other designed “touchy” issues.
As an example, the NBA drew the ire of Chinese nationalists in 2019 when Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protests. NBA broadcasting, advertising and other activities in China were immediately halted.
In the wake of InterPride’s cancellation of WorldPride Taiwan 2025, international organisations must acknowledge and understand that Beijing has a strategy towards Taiwan and other human rights issues that are the inverse of what these organisations stand for.
Organisations should take an indispensable moral stance and ensure their policies and activities do not peddle China’s official line, furthering China’s foreign policy aim of isolating Taiwan from the international community.
Samuel Ng is a Westpac Asian Exchange Scholar currently at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan undertaking units in Taiwanese international relations and political history. He is currently in the fifth year of a dual Bachelor in Laws (Honours) and International Business at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. He was also selected as a delegate to the Young Australians in International Affairs’ 2022 Future Leaders Series and the 2021 Australian Crisis Simulation Summit.