A Hong Kong lawmaker who opposes same-sex marriage has been appointed to the city’s equal opportunities watchdog, replacing another lawmaker with similar views.

Vincent Cheng from the pro-Beijing DAB party was one of the three new members appointed to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on Friday. They will begin their two-year terms on May 20.

Cheng, a self-declared Christian, has participated in an anti-gay marriage symposium held by the DAB, the Society for Truth and Light and the Family School SODO Concern Group – which are among the most vocal anti-gay groups in the city.

Vincent Cheng. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Last November, he also opposed a non-binding motion calling for the government to study same-sex unions.

Cheng replaced Holden Chow, also a lawmaker from the DAB party. He had been a member of the watchdog organisation since 2013.

Equal rights activists have called for Chow’s resignation for years – including in 2017, after he signed a joint statement urging the government to appeal a landmark ruling that grants welfare benefits to same-sex spouses.

Chow has also spoken out on numerous occasions opposing gay marriage, saying that it will undermine Hong Kong’s society and way of life.

LGBTQ groups opposed

Cheng’s appointment was met with disdain from local LGBTQ rights groups, with Big Love Alliance laying the blame at Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“After Holden Chow, the Catholic Carrie Lam has once again made a high-profile appointment of a pro-Beijing, anti-gay lawmaker to the EOC. This shows that the government is dedicated to making the EOC a paper tiger,” the group said on Facebook.

“A homophobic Holden Chow leaves and in comes a homophobic Vincent Cheng.”

Holden Chow. Photo: LegCo.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan, who is the only openly gay lawmaker in Hong Kong, told Apple Daily that Cheng’s appointment was a sign of preferential treatment.

“It’s like the DAB party has [an EOC seat] by hereditary succession,” Chan said, adding that he thought the government was deliberately holding the Commission back.

Advocacy group Pink Alliance also opposed Cheng’s appointment, saying the EOC “should not hold any prejudicial views.”

On Friday evening, Cheng said he was pleased to join the watchdog organisation: “Over the past decade and more, [Cheng] has served as the chairperson of the DAB’s ethnic minorities committee and its family affairs committee. [Cheng] has always helped ethnic minorities to integrate into society and pushed for a family-friendly environment,” the statement read.

He said he was looking forward to fighting racial discrimination and family status discrimination – but made no mention of LGBTQ equality.

Holden Chow (centre) and Vincent Cheng (second left) attend the same anti-gay marriage symposium in 2017. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

EOC Chairperson Ricky Chu – who was himself new to the job – praised the new members as representing “a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise” with “extensive experience in public service.”

The Commission has 14 members, and the other two new additions are Gary Wong and Anna Thompson. Wong is a co-convenor at the think tank Path of Democracy, which is led by former lawmaker Ronny Tong, and he previously came out in support of gay marriage. Thompson is the human resources director at Swire Properties.

Aside from Chow, the other two outgoing members are Hong Kong Sports Institute Chief Executive Trisha Leahy and nursing sector lawmaker Joseph Lee.

The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.

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.