Chinese authorities detain gay rights protester in Changsha city

BEIJING (AFP) - A 19-year-old Chinese gay rights activist was arrested for taking part in a protest that police described as "illegal", a fellow demonstrator said on Monday.

The detention came after around 100 protestors took to the streets of Changsha, in the southern province of Hunan, waving rainbow coloured flags and banners calling for an end to discrimination against gay people.

A 19-year-old male organiser of the protest was detained by police the following morning, Mr Peng Cheng, who took part in the event, told AFP. "They accused him of illegal gathering and protest," he added.

Police in Changsha announced online that the man would be placed in "administrative detention" for 12 days for participating in an "illegal protest".

"We think, according to the constitution, everybody has the freedom to express themselves... we think their punishment is unreasonable," Mr Peng said.

Chinese authorities are wary of dissent and often crack down on protests.

Homosexuality was a crime in China until 1997 and classed as a mental illness, with possible forced psychiatric treatment, for another four years, but attitudes in cities have relaxed in recent years.