Fresh from her victory at Hong Kong’s highest court on Wednesday morning, the lesbian expat known as QT decried Hong Kong government policies as being discriminatory towards LGBTQ individuals and making them feel like “second-class citizens.”

“In short, I think today’s ruling is a very small step for us, but it’s one giant step for equality in Hong Kong,” QT said, adding that she felt stunned when she first heard the news.

She was represented by human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, who hosted a press conference Wednesday afternoon where QT answered questions via phone.

Human rights lawyer Michael Vidler speaking to QT over the phone. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

QT- a British citizen – entered into a civil partnership with another woman in the UK, but was denied a spousal visa when her partner joined her in Hong Kong for work. The Immigration Department only allowed QT to enter the city on a tourist visa, on the grounds that their same-sex union was not recognised under Hong Kong law. QT then filed a judicial review.

See also: Hong Kong’s ‘blind spot’: A British woman’s years-long fight against the gov’t to stay with her wife (2017)

“The Immigration Department said I had two weeks to leave, and my wife asked me, what are we going to do now? And out of desperation I had to take them to court,” she said.

“There did come a time when we thought, why don’t we just move to another country? But that would have meant [my wife] giving up her career in Hong Kong, and she was doing exceptionally well,” she said. “After a while I decided: why should we give up our life? Our life is here in Hong Kong now.”

QT said she plans to eventually gain permanent residence in Hong Kong.

QT. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

QT said that, during the litigation process, she could not make sense of the government’s case because it “sounded like pure discrimination” instead of rational arguments.

She urged LGBTQ individuals to speak up against unfair treatment: “We have been discriminated against and that needs to be challenged. The whole system has to be challenged.”

‘Slam dunk’

Discussing the Court of Final Appeal’s judgment, Vidler told HKFP that it was a “slam dunk” for QT’s team since the court basically accepted all of their arguments.

He said he was struck by the judgment’s “clarity,” and that it crystallised a number of principles concerning discrimination law and gave them legal authority in Hong Kong.

Michael Vidler celebrates with his team. Photo: Vidler & Co.

With all hurdles cleared, Vidler said he expected QT’s application for a dependant visa to take around six weeks. He added that his office has been contacted by around 30 clients in situations similar to QT’s.

‘Positive outcome’

The Equal Opportunities Commission told HKFP on Wednesday that it was “pleased” with the court’s ruling.

“In light of the court decision, we believe that the Government should comprehensively consider the legal framework and policy measures on same-sex relationship recognition and the protection of equal rights of LGBTI persons in various contexts,” the EOC said.

Thirty-one financial institutions and law firms also put out a statement, saying that the decision was a “positive outcome” not only for QT but also for the people and business community of Hong Kong.

Immigration Tower. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The group previously attempted to intervene in the QT case at two separate stages, to provide reference documents to the court in support of her position. Both applications were rejected by the court.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, an EOC member who also opposes same-sex marriage, said that he respected the court’s decision but downplayed the social implications of the ruling.

“I must stress that the judgment clearly states, the QT case did not involve changing Hong Kong’s legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Chow said.

Holden Chow. Photo: LegCo.

He added that the case had nothing to do with local LGBTQ rights since it revolved around expatriates and how to attract foreign talent.

Holmes Chan

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.