Pro-Beijing lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai raised eyebrows when he complimented the looks of fellow legislators Tanya Chan and Lau Siu-lai during a Thursday legislature discussion on private columbaria in Hong Kong.

He also gave statistics on the HIV infection rates of gay men and spoke about his wife’s fears of extramarital affairs in his off-topic speech, which other legislators tried to interrupt.

Tanya Chan, Peter Shiu Ka-fai and Lau Siu-lai
Tanya Chan, Peter Shiu Ka-fai and Lau Siu-lai. File photo: LegCo/HKFP.

The Legislative Council passed a bill on Thursday on the licensing of private facilities to store urns, following a protracted dispute over gay rights.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man revised the bill to allow non-family members who have lived with the deceased person for two years to collect his or her ashes, given that Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriages or civil unions. However, relatives would be given priority to collect the ashes.

See also: Hong Kong LGBTQ groups ‘reluctantly’ support gov’t columbaria bill

LGBTQ groups reluctantly supported the bill, which was passed with 50 votes for, and one vote against, on Thursday.

HIV infection rates

However, Liberal Party lawmaker Shiu attracted attention in local media with his speech, which began with questions on whether the status of partners in homosexual relationships should be elevated to that of a family member.

private columbaria
A columbarium premise. File

Around 10 minutes into his speech, he digressed into talking about HIV infection rates in Hong Kong: “If you look at the graph I’m holding, there are potentially 8,612 HIV patients in Hong Kong… From 1984 onwards, the number has risen – especially those in male-male relationships.”

“Legislator Shiu, what do these statistics you’re reading have to do with the debate?” interrupted legislature president Andrew Leung.

“I’m trying to say that same-sex marriages and relationships, their effect on Hong Kong…” replied Shiu, before he was interrupted again by Leung.

“We are talking about columbaria,” said the president.

Shiu carried on speaking about HIV infection rates, and was again interrupted by openly gay pro-democracy legislator Ray Chan.

Extra-marital affairs

Shiu returned briefly to the status of partners in same sex couples, before comparing them to partners in extra-marital affairs. “Especially in the office,” he said. “This kind of thing always happens between colleagues.”

Peter Shiu Ka-fai
Peter Shiu Ka-fai. File photo: LegCo.

“Like colleagues in the legislature. Once I said to my wife: ‘Lau Siu-lai and Tanya Chan are quite pretty’.”

“Her face darkened. I finally understand why. She was worried that I had extra-marital affairs in the legislature.”

Although other legislators did not interrupt Shiu again, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man – attending the meeting – was filmed shaking his head and looking towards him.

New licencing regulations for private columbaria will come into force on June 30.

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