May 15, 2014 07:35 PM

Gay Man Said to Sue Baidu, Clinic over 'Conversion Therapy' Ads

(Beijing) – A gay rights group says that a court in the capital agreed on May 14 to hear a lawsuit a gay man filed against search engine Baidu Inc. and a clinic over ads they claimed they could make him heterosexual.

Caixin has seen a document the court in Beijing's Haidian District issued saying it will hear the case if the man pays a 75 yuan fee within seven days. Baidu's headquarters are in Haidian.

The court document was sent to Caixin by LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a pro-gay rights non-governmental organization (NGO). A representative of the NGO said the 30-year-old man from the southern city of Guangzhou, who asked not to be named, filed the lawsuit on March 13.

Such NGOs are illegal in China because the government refuses to register pro-gay rights groups.

The man said that family and friends pressured him to attend a "gay conversion therapy" session. In August 2013, he used Baidu to find a clinic in Chongqing called Xinyu Piaoxiang, and decided to visit the southwestern city because no one there would know him.

The man said he paid 500 yuan to attend one session and counselors used hypnosis on him and administered electric shocks. The session failed and caused him "significant mental stress," he said.

He wants Baidu and the clinic to publicly apologize for false advertising and pay him compensation.

An employee of Xinyu Piaoxiang clinic said by telephone on May 15 that there was a demand for the therapy. "It can't work if you only take it once or twice," he said.

The clinic is ignoring the lawsuit, the employee said.

Baidu's public relations department did not answer the phone at 2 p.m. on May 15.

China stopped treating homosexuality as a mental disorder in 2001, but many clinics across the country still offer therapies they say can change a patient's sexual orientation.

In March, a 19-year-old gay rights activist from Hunan took the central province's department of civil affairs to court for refusing to register his NGO.

The department rejected his application, saying in an open letter that homosexuality had no place in China's traditional culture and contradicted "the building of spiritual civilization." The phrase is often used by the ruling Communist Party to describe its goal of making its citizens more civic-minded.

The Hunan court said it would not hear the case.

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