A man dressed in a Chinese opera costume takes part in the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade
A man dressed in a Chinese opera costume takes part in the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade Reuters

A Chinese court has heard what is believed the country's first lawsuit over gay workplace discrimination.

The landmark case alleges that the plaintiff was fired from his job as a designer after a video of him arguing with another gay man was posted online.

"We're very optimistic," Liu Xiaohu, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said, adding that the case would definitely have an impact on views of gay rights in China.

The Shenzhen case was filed in November by a man using the pseudonym Mu Yi. It is the first of its kind in the country, according to the China office of rights group Pflag.

Mu was filmed by police in October arguing with another gay man on a Shenzhen street. The video went viral after it was posted online, with some users making their own videos playing on a speech made by the other participant in the dispute, who was wearing a "little red hat".

A week later, Mu was dismissed from his job as a designer, and sued in November, according to Pink News. Mu is seeking an apology as well as 50,000 yuan (£5,400) in compensation.

The Communist government decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, although it was listed as a mental illness for another four years.

Mu's employer states that the dismissal was not linked to his sexual orientation. Rather, he was dismissed him for a number of reasons including his "poor service attitude" and improper attire.

A decision on the lawsuit – which has become known as the "little red hat" case – is expected within the next three months.

Although China has become more tolerant of alternative lifestyles, there is still a need to conform to traditional values. One gay man interviewed by the BBC said: "Although I wouldn't call it discrimination, there's definitely a pressure to conformity in Chinese society. The goal is to to marry and produce male offspring. Since the Chinese are allowed to have only one child there is even more pressure to conform."