The future of policies and perspectives toward sexual minorities is uncertain as the government announced the appointment of a new Equal Opportunities Commission Chairperson on Friday morning. Pro-LGBT rights chairman York Chow Yat-Ngok will be leaving the post after this month. The appointment of Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, Elderly Commission chair and Lingnan University social policy professor, has received a mixed reception.
Labour Party legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan said that she had no confidence in the newly-appointed chairman and that Chan had done almost nothing in the area of equal rights.
“He also said today that he believed the issue of sexual orientation discrimination was controversial. But discrimination is never a right in any circumstance, and I hope Chan will recognise this.”
She also said that she felt regret and frustration that Chow could not serve a second term and worried that it was because Chow had done too much for sexual minorities, RTHK reported.
However, pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said Chan should pay attention to issues in society such as sexual orientation discrimination and “reverse discrimination”, and that Chan should not refrain from taking part in protests on “controversial matters”.
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In 2014, Chow attended the inaugural Pink Dot gay rights event in his capacity as EOC chairperson. Chow said last year that none of the his predecessors at the EOC had served beyond a single term, but that it had been a meaningful two years.
Last month, a study commissioned by the EOC found that more than half of Hongkongers support legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, indicating a visible shift in public opinion over the past decade.
People Power lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen, who is openly gay, said that Chow had applied to continue as chairman, Stand News reported. He also said he was disappointed Chow could not serve a second term, although he did not know whether this had to do with Chow’s staunch stance on LGBT matters. However, Chan also said that many government officials with religious beliefs and conservative legislators were against Chow.
Chan also said he did not know much about Chan Cheung-ming, and said he had arranged a meeting with him to learn about his views on sexual minorities. He also said he hoped the equality watchdog will continue to work on legislation against sexual discrimination.
LGBT activist group Pink Alliance said it looked forward to meeting with Chan. “We urge him to continue with the excellent track the EOC has been spearheading over the years especially on [LGBTI rights] and to take proactive action to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as shown in its own report by pushing for an anti-discrimination law,” Pink Alliance Vice-chair Billy Leung said in a statement.
The group also thanked York Chow for his “tireless efforts in working for [an] inclusive and diverse community for all Hongkongers”.