Just days after Taiwan became the first jurisdiction in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, the new head of Hong Kong’s equal opportunities watchdog has said it is “impractical” to try and bring about the same result during his tenure.

Ricky Chu, who was appointed to head the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) last month, said that the debate over legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong “will not yield practical results,” even if there was a protracted discussion.

Update: Marriage would ‘no longer be special’ if gays were allowed to wed, Hong Kong gov’t tells court

“If you ask the EOC to waste resources to do something people have already said could never pass [the legislature], then why would we do it?” Chu said on a radio programme on Sunday. “My logic is based on realistic outcomes.”

Ricky Chu
EOC Chairperson Ricky Chu. Photo: Stand News.

Asked if he would support a motion in the legislature calling for further study into the possibility of same-sex unions, Chu said he would not. The non-binding motion, which was proposed by Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker Ray Chan, was voted down last November.

Chu said he wanted to focus on safeguarding LGBTQ rights on the level of individuals, saying that there was less resistance to such legislation. Areas such as employment, using public services and receiving education would be good places to start during his three-year term, he added.

Brian Leung, host of the radio show and the chief operating officer of LGBTQ rights group BigLove Alliance, said that he was “totally taken aback” by some of Chu’s views.

“He continued to play defence for the government throughout the interview,” Leung told HKFP. “You can’t help but wonder whether EOC is [being] reduced to a mouthpiece under his leadership.”

taiwan lgbt gay flag
File photo: Taiwan Scenery Gallery.

Leung also took issue with Chu’s dismissal of the Paris Principles, an international standard for running human rights institutions. The EOC has been criticised for falling short on the aspect of institutional independence required by the guidelines, owing to the fact that its chair is appointed by the government.

“For someone who has zero credentials on human rights work, how dare he said something like the Paris Principles may be outdated. The interview really exposed how uninformed and ignorant he is in terms of human rights issues and ideology,” Leung said.

‘Reverse discrimination’

Separately, 16 anti-gay groups issued a joint statement to express concern over a Cathay Pacific advertisement showing two men holding hands and walking on a beach. The ad was initially barred from being shown at the airport and some metro stations, but the MTR Corporation and its advertising agency later relented.

priscilla leung mei fun
Priscilla Leung. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung said on Sunday that the incident showed that the LGBTQ rights movement had “created a chilling effect” and engaged in “reverse discrimination” against those opposed to same-sex marriage.

Leung added that advertisers should refrain from showing controversial content, and said she had written to the Airport Authority and the MTRC to complain about the u-turn.

cathay gay ad
Photo: Cathay Pacific.

Asked about his view on the Cathay Pacific ad, Chu said he couldn’t comment on it objectively since the parties involved had not yet explained their reasons for pulling the ad in the first place.

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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.