Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow is facing calls to resign from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), after he openly opposed LGBTQ rights and rejected any talks of legalising same-sex marriage.

“Chow’s clear stance against LGBTQ rights and the Sex Discrimination Ordinance contradicts the position of the EOC. He should step down from the commission,” pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan told HKFP.

Update: Equality watchdog chief urges respect after member’s anti-gay rights remarks

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Holden Chow at a protest against a pro-LGBT court decision. Photo: Holden Chow, via Facebook.

“It would have been fine if he had just been a lawmaker or a pressure group member. But it is not okay that he goes to EOC meetings with such a strong, pre-established position.”

The remarks came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying re-appointed Chow to the EOC for a two-year term. Chow is an incumbent member of the watchdog.

Chow has, on several occasions, voiced opposition to LGBTQ rights. On Tuesday, he signed a joint statement urging the government to appeal a landmark ruling that grants welfare benefits to a gay civil servant for his husband.

‘Below standards’

Critics argued that Chow is unfit to serve on the equality watchdog. On Thursday, 41 civil groups, 19 lawmakers and three political parties signed a joint statement demanding he step down from the EOC.

“Chow not only failed to fulfil his duty as an EOC member, he has also led anti-gay campaigns to deny sexual minority rights and incite homophobia,” they said. “How can we expect him to treat demands for minority interests equally, fairly and selflessly?

Gay rights advocate Billy Leung told HKFP that Chow does not meet international standards expected of people serving on government watchdogs, such as having a solid background in promoting human rights.

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Billy Leung. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

“His reappointment serves no interest to Hongkongers for the promotion of equality as seen from the various comments he makes on human rights issue, and will tarnish the good work carried out by the EOC,” he said.

‘No transparency’

Mabel Au, director of NGO Amnesty International Hong Kong, criticised the lack of transparency of the EOC appointment system. The chief executive appoints all 15 members and the chair of the EOC, and is not required to explain his choice.

“We don’t know why Chow was appointed – it was announced out of the blue,” Au told HKFP. “I don’t see a track record of Chow showing any concrete experience in defending human rights.”

In response, the EOC told HKFP: “The EOC has no statutory power to handle marriage laws… and unless this subject is discussed on the board, EOC members are free to express their personal opinions on same-sex marriage.”

But Ray Chan said the issue is Chow’s “complete opposition” against sexual minority rights.

“Of course I don’t expect members to have the same position or pace. But in Chow’s case, it is not about the difference of pace; his entire mentality and actions are against same-sex marriage and the Sex Discrimination Ordinance,” he said.

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Ray Chan. File Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Last Wednesday, EOC Chair Alfred Chan Cheung-ming wrote in an oped to Hong Kong Free Press: “Even though the EOC has no statutory power over marriage issues, we believe it is time to start discussing the legal recognition and other issues associated with same-sex marriage.”

He said Hong Kong should continue to strive for LGBTQ equality in light of the landmark court decision – the same ruling that Chow wanted to see overturned.

Chow did not return emails and calls despite repeated attempts to reach him.

Established in 1996, the Equal Opportunities Commission is a statutory body tasked with promoting equality and implementing anti-discrimination laws.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.