Yang Teng, a 30 year old Chinese man who identifies as gay announced on Thursday that he is suing a psychological clinic after they used electroconvulsive therapy in an attempt to turn him straight. Along with the clinic he is also suing Baidu, one of China's most popular search engines for advertising the clinic. This type of therapy is not uncommon in China despite the government de-classifying homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001. The Beijing LGBT Center, an organization that campaigns for LBGT rights, says that this is China's first ever court case concerning “conversion therapy.”
Teng admitted himself to the Chongqing Xinyu Piaoxiang clinic in February after being pressured by his family about his sexual orientation. Teng's lawyer, Li Duilong, stated that the clinic did not give Teng the option to sign a consent to treatment form prior to being subjected to the electroconvulsive therapy and that the clinic staff was not honest about the severity of the therapy or the pain patients experience.
Li also stated that the clinic told Teng that the therapy was not dangerous even though it caused Teng mental and physical anguish. Both Teng and Li hope that this case will set a national precedent and help move the government towards banning conversion therapies all together. Teng talked about his goals for this lawsuit and stated “Homosexuality is not a disease and we do not need a cure.”
Members of the LBGT community and gay rights activists have rallied behind Teng in his cause. Li expects that a judgment should be given within six months. China has become increasingly accepting of same-sex relationships, although same-sex partnerships are not legally recognized and there are no laws in place to stop discrimination against sexual minorities. Teng has told press that despite the trauma of conversion therapy he is finally comfortable with his orientation.