It seems America isn’t the only country strengthening its alliance with China. Iceland, the first European nation to recognize China’s full market economic status, is actively looking to improve its bilateral trade relations with the Middle Kingdom. The country’s first openly gay prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, is visiting China with her wife on a five-day tour that began this past Saturday. During the visit, she plans to sign a historic free-trade agreement in a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang, which promises to enrich both China’s and Iceland’s economic futures. Another stop on the agenda might be coffee with a grassroots, Guangzhou-based organization devoted to advancing the rights of the LGBT community. Representatives there have confirmed reaching out to Sigurdardottir and her wife, and hope the invitation will reach the couple. Although homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in China in 2001, a worker at PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) tells the website Shanghaiist’s Shannon Najmabadi that tensions surrounding the topic are still high. He hopes that the prime minister’s visit “will be a real-life lesson in equal rights taught to our state leaders.” With a gay population in China now estimated at approximately 50 million, Sigurdardottir’s visit resonates on more levels than just economic.
LGBT activists in the Middle Kingdom hope visit will soften China’s stance on gay rights.