Student held for weeks after Russian ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ arrest released and reunited with boyfriend

Haoyang Xu and Gela Gogishvili pose side-by-side after Haoyang was detained by authorities in Russia for allegedly violating the country's 'LGBTQ+ propaganda' ban

A Chinese student arrested for allegedly violating Russia’s ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ ban has been released and reunited with his partner.

Haoyang Xu was arrested on 5 April and later found guilty by a Russian court for violating a ban on so-called ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’, which criminalises any act regarded as promoting queer identities. 

The Chinese national, who was studying and living in the Russian city of Kazan, regularly documented his life with his partner Gela Gogishvili through social media.

According to a post on the couple’s TikTok channel, Haoyang has been released, and he and Gela have been reunited. The couple released a series of photographs on the social media platform on Tuesday (25 April). 

In one image, the couple are seen standing together outside with an overlay caption reading: “We are together again.”

After his arrest, Haoyang was held in a detention centre for foreigners and was threatened with deportation from Russia. It’s not yet clear whether Haoyang will be removed from the country.

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Gela told PinkNews that his boyfriend faced inhumane conditions while in detention, being given only dirty water to drink, and being made to sleep on a “cold stone”.

He was also targeted with homophobic abuse while in detention, Gela said.

Anna-Maria Tesfaye, co-founder of the LGBTQ+ group Queer Svit, told PinkNews that it’s “very dangerous” for queer people, especially trans folks and LGBTQ+ people of colour, like Haoyang and Gela to stay in Russia. 

“In general, it is very heartbreaking and scary that the people who are already stigmatised and very traumatised by everyone… they can’t have any support from anyone, and they will not be supported,” Tesfaye said. 

“They will be persecuted for being themselves. I would say that this is why we exist. I wish our organisation would never exist, and we will never have to learn which places are the most queer-friendly and … not very racist.”

In Russia, LGBTQ+ people are persecuted, discriminated against and regularly silenced by the powerful government. 

Passed in 2013, the first iteration of the ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ law barred any media – from advertisements to films, music and websites – seen by minors. 

It was extended to all age ranges last December as part of president Vladimir Putin’s increasing effort to crack down on queer lives and cast the country as facing a battle against ‘corrupting Western values’. 

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