The organizers of Shanghai's decade-old Pride event have announced its cancelation this year and in future years, without giving a reason.
"ShanghaiPRIDE regrets to announce that we are cancelling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events," the organizers said in a statement posted to the group's website.
"We love our community, and we are grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together. No matter what, we will always be proud – and you should be, too," it said.
It said the event had worked hard to enrich the city's culture and diversity, with art and theatrical events, parties, forum, and platforms for individual expression.
"Over the past 12 years, we worked hard to enrich the culture and diversity of this city that we love so much," the statement said.
"Pride has a lot of different meanings for different people – for us, it has always been about showing our community that not only is there nothing wrong with who we are, but that our identities and the people that we love are worth celebrating," it said.
The statement gave no reason for the decision, but local activists said the team had likely come under political pressure from the authorities.
An art industry employee surnamed Han told RFA that ShanghaiPRIDE was the only related organization legally permitted under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, and that something must have changed in the corridors of power.
"If the reason isn't political, then they should just say so," Han said, adding that the Pride event had been highly successful in attracting investment and sponsorship, so funding was unlikely to be the issue.
He said ShanghaiPRIDE had also been involved in ongoing civil society activities in support of the LGBTQ community in China, including running seminars for the parents of LGBTQ people.
"[This means] that all queer activities will have to go underground now, otherwise they will be accused of running events without official permission," Han said. "There will be no way LGBTQ groups will be able to run events now."
Ignored by state media
The news of Pride's cancellation was largely ignored by state media, nor did the organizers make an official announcement on their social media accounts.
Only the Chinese-language "Voice of the Comrades" and some individual social media accounts reported the event's demise, drawing a sad reaction from commenters.
"I only just found out today ... that they have done enough for the LGBTQ community now in our country, and that ShanghaiPRIDE won't be allowed to go ahead," @xiangshuhualv wrote.
"Yet another slap in the face!"
User @yanyuanbujiatang said the move was "yet more intolerance," while @youlingtekuai added: "They even attack love in this place; they want to extinguish who we are."
A journalist surnamed Bao said many of the critical voices have since disappeared from China's tightly controlled internet.
"Now the comments are basically dominated by the 50-cent brigade [of paid, pro-government commentators]," Bao said.
He said rumors that ShanghaiPRIDE was being investigated for connections to overseas funding were likely amplified by them.
"There is no actually basis for thinking that," he said. "In fact, it is clear confirmation that this is a political issue."
The cancellation comes after the organizers of a planned LGBTQ conference in the northern city of Xian were forced to cancel in 2017 after official pressure.
A number of crackdowns
Government censors have since carried out a number of crackdowns on LGBTQ representation on social media, in books, comics, TV and film.
Earlier this year, the education authorities in Jinan, provincial capital of Shandong, called for the "strengthening of political and ideological education" for students of foreign-invested schools, at both primary and secondary level.
The guidance was to include the view of homosexuality as "corrupt behavior imported from the West [that is] inconsistent with core socialist values."
Bao said the crackdown stems in part from a conservative attitude to sexuality under the indefinite rule of Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, and partly from a fear that civil organizations are a threat to party rule.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and removed from official psychiatric diagnostic manuals in 2001.
More and more highly educated urban Chinese have begun coming out in recent years, and while some find acceptance among their peers, social attitudes still strongly favor heterosexual marriage and children.
How many Chinese identify as LGBTQ is unknown. The country’s health and family planning ministry has estimated that there are between five and 10 million gay men in China, but activists say the actual number is far higher.
LGBTQ activists say there have been a growing number of anti-discrimination lawsuits filed by the community in China since around 2010, as well as some rare though unsuccessful bids to register same-sex marriages.
Reported by Han Jie for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.