Ten children’s books telling stories relating to same-sex parenting have been moved to the “closed stacks” of Hong Kong’s public libraries, following a campaign by the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group.

The anti-gay-rights group wrote in an online statement on Tuesday that the Home Affairs Bureau had granted their request after months of petitioning. The Home Affairs Bureau said the books were evaluated by the Collection Development Meeting and moved to the closed stacks to “ensure children receive proper guidance when reading them.”

Closed stacks refer to the storage section of the library where books can be retrieved on demand. The Collection Development Meeting is made up of professional librarians who “formulate, review, and revise strategies for collection development.”

Tiu Keng Leng Public Library. File Photo: GovHK.

In January, the Concern Group criticised public libraries for “spreading unethical homosexual messages” by stocking titles such as Daddy, Papa, and meMommy, Mama, and me and And Tango Makes Three. The three titles have been moved to the closed stacks, along with seven additional titles chosen at the Collection Development Meeting’s own initiative: Molly’s Family, The Family Book, Introducing Teddy, The Boy in the Dress, Milly, Molly and Different Dads, Annie on My Mind, and Good Moon Rising.

In a statement to HKFP, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the books were moved based on “concerns expressed by various readers.”

However, the LCSD acknowledged that the books did not “encourage or criticise same-sex marriage or advocate homosexuality,” and did not involve inappropriate messages, which was why the books could still remain part of the public libraries’ overall collection.

Daddy, Papa and Me, Mommy, Mama and me Penguin Random House
Photo: Penguin Random House

“When choosing reading material for their children, parents can freely decide whether to let children read these books and to provide suitable guidance,” the LCSD said in the statement.

The LCSD added that it was “typical” for part of the library collection to be placed in closed stacks, such as special editions children’s books and books of low circulation. They remain searchable in the library catalogue and available for borrowing.

On Facebook, the concern group said: “Because these children’s books positively depict homosexuality and transgender acts, the government should protect children, and make sure that they read these books under parent supervision.”

HKFP has reached out to the Home Affairs Bureau for comment.

‘Capitulation by LCSD’

Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan said in a statement that the LCSD had “suddenly capitulated” and failed to uphold the values of balance, diversity and freedom of information, and did not act in accordance with the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto.

Ray Chan
Lawmaker Ray Chan. Photo: inmediahk.net.

“The LCSD believed that the content was neutral, and did not advocate homosexuality or same-sex marriage – so what was the reason for putting the books in closed stacks?!” Chan wrote.

The BigLove Alliance, a gay rights advocacy group, also condemned the LCSD for “bowing down to unreasonable demands” for the sake of appeasing those who complained.

The LCSD said Hong Kong’s public libraries acquire books following the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, and do not use their collections to promote a certain belief or viewpoint.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.