The government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam have given a lukewarm response to the news that Hong Kong will host the Gay Games in 2022.

Organisers Out in HK successfully fought off competition from cities in the US and Mexico. The cultural and sporting event is open to people of any sexuality, ability and gender. The economic impact for the city is estimated to be HK$1 billion, organisers say.

When Lam was asked on Tuesday if she would congratulate the organisers, she told diplomats at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club that she had “noted” the news. According to four sources who attended the off-the-record event, Lam claimed that Hong Kong was still divided on the issue of same-sex marriage and went on to cite her Catholic faith. One source told HKFP that her reaction prompted an “audible rumble of discontent” among the audience.

Attendee and RTHK host Peter Lewis said on Wednesday that Lam’s stance was “disappointing.”

“[S]till no words of congratulation or support from the government over that great victory for HK which will see 180 countries send athletes to HK and thousands of visitors during the 2022 gay games. Come on Mrs. Lam you can do much better than this,” he wrote on Facebook. Lewis said he was speaking in a personal capacity.

Lam left the event without joining diplomats for drinks.

Over 120 organisations supported the Hong Kong bid, including banks, retailers, the Tourism Board and the equality watchdog.

Gov’t ‘notes’ games

A government spokesperson told HKFP that it had “noted” that a registered society had made a winning bid, when asked whether it would extend its congratulations or offer support to the games.

“The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region notes that the Games is a sports and cultural event which welcomes participants of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations and levels of ability. The Government is committed to promoting equal opportunities and fostering in the community the culture and values of inclusiveness and mutual respect,” the spokesperson said.

The bid team in Paris on Monday. Photo: Gay Games.

The spokesperson added that the hiring of sports and cultural venues will be administered by the relevant government departments in accordance with the established procedures.

Bid organiser Paul Choi said that no financial support had been pledged by the authorities, though the games may seek monetary support in the future: “We will continue to explore further support from the government (e.g. the mega event fund) as appropriate.”

He said that the Tourism Board and Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) supported the bid, and a supportive letter from the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau was included in their bid package.

‘An excellent opportunity’ 

In a statement on Tuesday, EOC Chairperson Alfred Chan welcomed the bid: “We are very pleased to hear that the Gay Games will be hosted in Hong Kong in 2022. It will be the first time this kind of sports and cultural event is ever held in Hong Kong, or anywhere in Asia. We believe that it will be an excellent opportunity to promote equality and respect of LGBTI people, as well as celebrating diversity and encouraging participation of all.”

Photo: Gay Games.

On Wednesday, the government’s Immigration Department filed an application to appeal the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision to rule in favour of QT, a lesbian expatriate who was refused a spousal visa.

There are no anti-discrimination laws in Hong Kong to protect sexual minorities. Whilst the government has provided financial support to equality groups, it has also granted funds to anti-gay Christian charity The Society For Truth and Light.

The Chief Executive’s Office did not respond to enquiries in time for publication.

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.