Over half of Hongkongers now support same-sex marriage, a marked rise from 38 per cent in 2013, a study by Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) has found.

According to the CCPL, the study is the first ever to track changes in Hong Kong public opinion on legal protections for homosexual people. The researchers conducted a telephone survey in 2013 and repeated it in 2017.

They found that the number of people who responded that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry had risen to 50.4 per cent, compared with 38 per cent in 2013.

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Protesters with Amnesty International Hong Kong express support for LGBTQ rights during the annual July 1 march on Sunday. Photo: Dan Garrett/HKFP.

“Our study shows that support for the rights of same-sex couples has grown markedly over a short period,” said Professor Yiu-tung Suen from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, one of the research leaders. “A few years has made a significant difference.”

“It is worth noting that, between the time of the two surveys, the highest courts of the United States and Taiwan both ruled that it is unconstitutional to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. These major developments made news headlines in Hong Kong and may have contributed to the shift in Hong Kong public opinion,” the report said.

The survey also found that 69 per cent of respondents agreed that Hong Kong should have a law that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Our study also illuminates a discrepancy between law and public opinion,” noted Kelly Loper of the University of Hong Kong, another research leader. “While 69 per cent of Hong Kong people said they favour having a law to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, the government of Hong Kong has yet to enact such legislation.”

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File photo: PH Yang.

The Equal Opportunities Commission also found in a 2016 survey that over half of Hongkongers are in favour of legislation against sexual orientation discrimination. But the government has yet to launch a public consultation despite the watchdog’s calls to enact anti-discrimination law.

LGBTI rights activist Billy Leung told HKFP that he found the findings encouraging.

“It is undeniable that both the people and businesses of Hong Kong are moving ahead to greater acceptance recognising equality,” he said.

“Hongkongers understand that this is not a question of special rights but equal rights. The government needs to get rid of its prejudice, pull its head out of the sand, recognise the changing landscape and adapt if it still aspires to remain a World City.”

Immigration policy

Researchers also asked interviewees to answer whether they thought those in long-term same-sex relationships should be able to apply for a visa for their foreign partners to live in Hong Kong – a new question added since 2013.

53 per cent responded that they agreed, while 18 per cent were neutral and 29 per cent disagreed.

The Court of Final Appeal is expected to hand down its decision on Wednesday on the case of QT, a British woman who filed a judicial review after the Immigration Department refused to grant her same-sex spouse – with whom she is in a civil partnership – a dependent visa.

QT lost at the Court of First Instance, but the Court of Appeal last year ruled in her favour, and legal experts hailed the decision as a “landmark judgment” that recognises same-sex relationships as valid in Hong Kong. The Immigration Department then lodged a final bid to overturn the ruling.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.