Dozens of students at a local higher institute held a protest during a visit by the Catholic Cardinal and Bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong, who was attending a graduation ceremony at the school. The demonstration was in protest at the Cardinal’s publication of a letter critical of same-sex marriage earlier this month, and the school’s refusal to grant venues for a festival on sex culture.

The protest took place on Monday at the graduation ceremony at Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tiu Keng Leng. The school, which is under the management of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, invited the Cardinal to be the guest of honour.

Protesters held signs during the ceremony.

During the ceremony, three protesters stood in silence, holding up signs that said “Love no limit”, “Embrace diversity”, “Accept the difference” and “I support LGBT rights”. Several other graduates also stuck paper slips with similar slogans onto their gowns, while others waved them as they stood on the stage and placed them onto Tong’s desk.

A student holding a slogan onstage during the ceremony.

As Tong was leaving the hall, he was surrounded by dozens of students who waved rainbow flags and asked him to accept a petition letter. When the Cardinal refused to do so and ignored their questions on same sex marriage, the students chanted “Shame on Tong Hong”, RTHK reported.

John Tong at the ceremony.

During the commotion, security guards separated Tong and the protesters and two students fell down. After five minutes, Tong left under the escort of school staff and the petition was accepted by Kwan Ching-ping, President of the Institute.

Earlier this month, the Cardinal published a letter expressing his disapproval of same-sex marriage and urging believers to choose candidates in the District Council elections based on their stances on the values of marriage and the family. Tong opposed the proposed enactment of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO), a piece of anti-discrimination legislation which has yet to be signed into law.

John Tong. Photo: Wikicommons/HKFP.

Tong also criticised the ‘Workshop on Love-making Techniques’ recently held at the higher education institute, saying that “It is evident, therefore, that the virtual propagation of sexual liberation under the umbrella of academic freedom, as a misguided culture, is no longer implicitly, but publicly and, so to say, pompously, intruding on our daily life and directly affecting our next generation.”

According to an organiser of the Sex Cultural Festival, the Caritas Institute of Higher Education had refused to grant them venues for a sex toy exhibition and a talk on reproduction. The school also forced them to remove six “Love No Limit” signs put up near the staircase, Apple Daily reported.

Another organiser of the Sex Cultural Festival said that the petition was to open up a conversation with the school on the topic of gender and sexual orientation. He said he was disappointed that the Cardinal refused to talk to them or accept the letter. He also said that he did not understand why Tong had to lump politics and religion together, and hoped that Tong would retract his statements.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.