Queer student freed after being detained under Russian 'LGBT Propaganda' law

Haoyang Xu allegedly endured inhumane conditions, homophobia and racist abuse from authorities after being arrested in Russia.

Queer student Haoyang Xu hugs his boyfriend in Russia.
Image: Twitter @ovdinfo_en

After being detained for two weeks over accusations of violating President Vladimir Putin’s so-called ‘LGBT Propaganda‘ law, queer Chinese student Haoyang Xu has been freed from Russian prison.

According to reports, he endured inhumane conditions while detained and faced deportation from Russia to China. However, as of Tuesday, April 25, he has been released and reunited with his boyfriend.

Before Haoyang was freed, his partner, 23-year-old Gela Gogishvili, shared their story through the help of translator Anna-Maria Tesfaye, the Co-Founder of Queer Svit, a grassroots organisation that helps LGBTQ+ people find safety and support.

Although details are still emerging, the organisation has since announced the 21-year-old’s release, with this translated tweet reading, “Hurrah! Haoyang and Gela are now together and in a safe place. This is the main and most joyful news at the moment! We can’t reveal the details yet, for the safety of the guys, but stay in touch and stay tuned for updates!”


Prior to their arrest, the openly queer, interracial couple were living in Kazan, Russia, where they regularly posted TikTok videos of themselves living their lives together and sharing affection.

Tesfaye, the translator, explained, “They wanted to make these videos to show people how they live, how everything is going and that they’re just usual, common people, and they’re not different in any way from anyone.” But last month, their social media became a target of homophobic attacks.



♬ оригинальный звук – Господин Пак – Mr. Gela


After being stopped by police for a passport and document check at Burger King, the couple was arrested and detained on April 5 on charges related to their social media posts. Gela was released after several hours, but Haoyang was forced to stay in a migrant detention facility, where he remained for the past 15 days.

First, Haoyang was allegedly placed with dangerous criminals where he “basically had to sleep on a cold stone”. Then, he was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where he reportedly endured homophobic and racist abuse from authorities. He also says that the court disregarded everything the police did wrong during their arrest.

While Russian news claimed that Haoyang was being kept in good conditions, his boyfriend asserts that the conditions were inhumane. Gela allegedly tried to drop off food and clothing, none of which were delivered until the couple’s social media followers started calling the authorities. Even with those basic items, “…keeping a person who is not guilty of anything in such conditions, it’s very traumatising,” Tesfaye stated.


Queer Svit was able to help support the couple during the arrest. Tesfaye created the organisation because she worries about people like Haoyang, a queer student of colour, who continue to live in the country under anti-LGBTQ+ Russian regimes. 

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

While this couple endured impossible challenges, as they’ve shared on social media, they are just normal people who want to be able to live safe and normal lives. The pair met online and bonded over their love of music. While Gela has a deep love for Korean pop groups, Haoyang is a major Swiftie who, according to his boyfriend, would happily “sell his kidney” to go to her concert.

Queer Svit started a fundraiser to provide financial support and raise awareness about their story, and Delo LGBT provided the couple with legal aid. Thankfully, their efforts were successful and Haoyang is free. Queer Svit says it admires the power of queer community and its willingness to help.

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