Rights groups have criticised the “silence” of chief executive candidates Carrie Lam and John Tsang on LGBTQ issues in the lead-up to Sunday’s small-circle election.

None of the three contenders – including Woo Kwok-hing – mention improving the rights of sexual minorities as part of their official election platforms.

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File photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

All three have expressed their views on LGBTQ rights in response to media enquiries, but activists say that only Woo has voiced his stance in detail.

Woo Kwok-hing: Support for same-sex marriage

The Sexual Minority Rights Election Concern Group – an alliance of a dozen rights organisations – said it sent a ten-question survey to each of the three contenders, asking for their opinions on various LGBTQ issues.

Only Woo replied to the questionnaire by its March 15 deadline. He voiced support for same-sex marriage, the banning of mandatory conversion therapy, and a law against discriminaton based on sexual orientation.

He said he needed to further consult the public before deciding whether he would promise to amend the Adoption Ordinance, so as to allow same-sex couples to adopt minors.

Tsang: Anti-discrimination law first

During a televised debate last Sunday, IT sector elector William Lai asked each of the candidates to clarify their stances on LGBTQ issues. Although Lam and Tsang did not have enough time to reply, the latter sent a response to Lai via WhatsApp on Tuesday.

“I believe it is not immediately necessary to resolve the question relating to same-sex marriage,” said Tsang. “We need to first face the question of a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

“We must wait for a consensus in society, and then discuss relevant topics based on the situation.”

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Calls for an anti-discrimination law at a Hong Kong protest. File photo: Rainbow Action.

Tsang added that he was a Catholic, but respected the rights of others to voice their opinions.

Lam: Faith will not determine policy

Lam has not spoken about LGBTQ issues since early February, when she responded to a question about same-sex marriage during a Commercial Radio interview.

She said that she was a devout Catholic, but would constantly remind herself that her faith should not determine the stance and the policies of the government.

She added that she would not rule out the possibility of conducting public consultation on same-sex marriage.

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File photo: Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.

Speaking to HKFP, Sexual Minority Rights Election Concern Group spokesperson Samantha Lau said that only Woo appeared to have the courage to tackle LGBTQ issues.

“The silence of the other two candidates show they have little concern for the human rights of minorities and avoid voicing any comments,” she said.

“The coming chief executive should be able to listen to all voices of the community and follow the Policy Agenda that was set earlier this year.”

In January, the government’s Policy Address mentioned continuing an inter-departmental study towards legislating various aspects of gender recognition, and a review of existing discrimination laws based on recommendations made by the Equal Opportunities Commission last year.

“Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, LGBTQ rights are still not being advanced other than [through a] negative approach such as lawsuits and judicial reviews,” added spokesperson Lau.

Chief executive candidates. File photo: RTHK screenshot.

The Sexual Orientation Discrimination Legislation Front, which advocates enacting an anti-discrimination law, attributed the lack of action on LGBTQ issues to the small-circle nature of the chief executive election.

“Only some 1,000 electors can vote,” said the group in a Thursday press release. “There is no ‘human rights sector’ to ensure that human rights topics are placed on the agenda.”

“The front believes that only a chief executive elected through real universal suffrage will truly respond to the issues of human rights, the livelihoods of the lower classes and other topics that concern the general public.”

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.