A library user has filed a judicial review against Hong Kong Public Library’s decision to remove ten LGBT-themed children’s books from their shelves, saying that the move violates human rights and the Basic Law.

According to local media, applicant Lee Tak-hung filed the writ to the Court of First Instance on Tuesday. He asked the court to decide whether the library’s decision to remove the books inhibits freedom of speech and freedom to engage in cultural activities, which are protected by Hong Kong laws as well as international agreements.

Lee said in the writ that he first came into contact with LGBT issues at public libraries, where he read books with positive and negative portrayals of such subjects, Apple Daily reported. He argued that libraries were an important medium for the exchange of such information.

Affected LGBTQ library children's books
Some of the affected library books. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

The writ listed as respondents Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Michelle Li Mei-sheung, and the Collection Development Meeting of Hong Kong Public Libraries.

The legal challenge comes after growing backlash to the decision. On Thursday Hong Kong’s equality watchdog called it an unnecessary move that may place “new limits on children’s access to books.”

All of the books were moved to the “closed stacks” – a storage area where books are only available upon request. Among the removed titles are Daddy, Papa, and meMommy, Mama, and me, And Tango Makes Three, Molly’s FamilyThe Family BookIntroducing TeddyThe Boy in the DressMilly, Molly and Different DadsAnnie on My Mind, and Good Moon Rising.

It comes after a month-long petition from an anti-gay rights group, the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group, which accused the books of “spreading unethical homosexual messages.”

Hong Kong central Library
Hong Kong Central Library. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Activist groups have voiced their concerns over the move, including LGBTQ rights group Pink Alliance. Reggie Ho, CEO of the alliance, previously told HKFP: “The right of society at large to have access to knowledge, information and research should not be restricted because of protests from people who want to impose their beliefs on others.”

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.