John Shen is a Chevening Alumnus from the Class of 2017 and a prominent LGBT rights activist in China. Read all about his work and journey since he returned from his year of study in the UK.

John grew up in a small town in South China called Guilin, somewhere he calls ‘the most beautiful place on this planet’.

He was inspired to apply for Chevening because of its diverse and inclusive network, which welcomes people from across the globe who want to make a positive change in the world. In 2017, he came to the UK to study ‘China in Comparative Perspective’ at the London School of Economics, due to the recommendation of a friend who knew of his work campaigning for LGBT rights. During his year in the UK he met and learned from many fellow Cheveners who share his vision and mindset. He found their support very ‘important for my career and my life.’


The support of my fellow Cheveners has been very important for my career and my life

After completing his year of study in the UK, John returned to Beijing and continued his campaigns for LGBT diversity and inclusion. ‘It was difficult in the beginning as I realized that finishing a Master’s degree as Chevening Scholar didn’t give me a magic wand to eliminate all the dilemmas, I still had to conduct fundraising for my NGO and deal with social stigma among other things.’

Beyond his studies, John says that an enhanced ability to solve problems and an unwavering belief in himself are the key takeaways he has from his Chevening year – ‘that is the principle that keeps me going.’
John completed an internship with the LGBT rights charity, Stonewall, in the months after his dissertation hand in. He returned to China with a unique model of campaigning for LGBT rights using business, and initiated a systematic LGBT business & diversity programme in China in 2019 with colleagues at the Beijing LGBT Center. This project has received endorsement from the United Nations Development Programme as well as the International Labour Organization.

John was also recently named as a finalist in the British Council Alumni Awards for his work over the last decade, conducting LGBT research and awareness-raising campaigns in China and around the world.


Watch John’s interview with the British Council here.

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