A Hong Kong newsmaker is chosen each month by HKFP. Outgoing chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission Dr York Chow Yat-ngok has been chosen for March 2016. 

From duetting with a gay singer, Anthony Wong, on stage to attending the city’s gay pride parade, Dr York Chow has been known as a vocal advocate for equality for sexual minorities and as such has often made the headlines.

Photo: HKFP.

During Chow’s three-year term as head of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the orthopaedic surgeon repeatedly spoke up on the issue, emphasising the importance of rights for sexual minorities.

As he sees it, he “has the responsibility to represent EOC in speaking up for the minority,” he wrote in MingPao in 2013.

Chow believes gay people should be able to pursue love freely and be recognised equally under the law.

“Gay people do not harm anyone,” he said. “What wrong deeds have they done? Why must we have an ethical discussion about gay rights? Why is supporting equality for sexual minorities distorting society’s core values?”

Chow urged the passage of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Ordinance in 2014, which would have provided better protection from sexual harassment for front-line employees, especially those in the service industry. Chow also launched a consultation on sexual orientation.

Gay Pride Hong Kong 2015. Photo: Dan Garrett.

In 2014, he said a Christian school in Shatin had violated the Code of Practice against Discrimination in Employment on the Ground of Sexual Orientation after requiring employees to sign a contract declaring they would not engage in “any form of homosexuality.”

“We need to embrace all people,” Chow stated. “We advocate for pluralism and inclusion. We want to ensure that in all areas we can accept diversity and inclusion.”

At Chow’s last conference as the EOC chief in March, he said he would miss the LGBT community. Before bidding farewell, he also rolled out a report on the territory’s discrimination laws, urging the government to strengthen regulation to protect sexual minorities from prejudice.

LGBT advocacy group Pink Alliance expressed their “disappointment” over Chow’s resignation, saying he has fulfilled his responsibility to safeguard the equal rights of all LGBT people.

Photo: HKFP

It is unclear why Chow has not been reappointed but many have speculated that it has to do with his strong support of LGBT rights.

Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Priscilla Leung said Chow’s support for equal marriage and legislation protecting sexual minorities from discrimination is not in line with community values, RTHK reported.

The Chairman of the Elderly Commission, Alfred Chan, will take over Chow’s seat this month. Questions have been raised about Chan’s conservative character, with fears this may tarnish the actions of his predecessor.

During Chan’s interview with i-Cable news, he said legislation to outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation might not be the best way forward.

Ashley Chan

Ashley is a Hong Kong-based multi-media journalist. She has a special interest in arts and culture. She has worked with the BBC and the Associated Press and holds a journalism degree from the University of Sheffield.