A lesbian couple sued the Chimelong Safari Park, a zoo in China’s megacity Guangzhou, and online travel giant Ctrip after they were barred from using a discount package offered for couples.
The lawsuit was accepted at the Shanghai Changning district court, one of China’s top courts, last week because the two sides could not settle the case. Chimelong did not respond to the South China Morning Post’s interview requests.
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The couple, who went to the park on May 21, the unofficial Valentine’s Day in China, said they had bought a “couple’s package” from the park, which was supposed to offer a discount of 90 yuan (US$14).
When they went to the park, they were denied entry and told they were not allowed to use the couple’s package because the discount was only meant for “a man and a woman”.
In protest, the couple refused to leave. When they complained to customer service, they were referred to the company’s administrative department.
A staff member told them, “All the couples we know are a man and a woman … If you have a special case, why didn’t you find out clearly before you bought the ticket?”
The couple spent over two hours trying to find a solution to the problem, with no success. In the following days, the couple received a refund from Ctrip, the ticket-booking agency, but not from Chimelong. They tried to contact the park via social media but received no word, one of the women said.
I don’t want my girlfriend to think that being in a relationship with me means tolerating injustice.
One of the women suing the Chimelong Safari Park
Meanwhile, the discount ticket listings were removed from Ctrip and Fliggy, a travel platform owned by Alibaba Group, which also owns the Post.
“I don’t want my girlfriend to think that being in a relationship with me means tolerating injustice,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “I want our love not to be discriminated against and for love in our community not to be overlooked.”
Zhong Wen, the couple’s lawyer, said the lawsuit claimed the park and Ctrip were in violation of the purchasing contract.
He explained that, after the couple bought the discounted ticket, their service contract with Ctrip and Chimelong had begun. He said it was a breach of contract when the park denied services based on a clause that discriminated against sexual minorities.
Zhong admitted that it is hard to predict the outcome of the case, but added, “From an analytical legal point of view, I think it’s quite certain that Chimelong and Ctrip had broken their contract”.
This is not the first time Chimelong created controversy in a similar situation. In 2018, a person said on Weibo that Chimelong’s “couple’s ticket” included a description that read the ticket only applied to “one man and one woman only”. At that time, the park said it would improve the operation of its “couple’s tickets” and said the park is open and tolerant to all groups in society.
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