I am endlessly amazed by the assumption of homophobes that same sex relationships are more attractive than cross sex relationships to the extent that any relaxation of official discrimination against LBGTQ+ people will lead to a flood of straight people opting to change their sexual orientation.

Moreover they seem to be obsessed by the purely sexual aspect of same sex relationships as seen, yet again, when Junius Ho, the legislator with special responsibilities for hatred, took to his feet in a recent Legco session to proclaim opposition for assistance to the hosting of the international Gay Games next year by saying, “It is your business what you do in your own room, but if you go out and do it in public, it’s disgraceful”.

lgbt couple
File Photo: Pexels.

According to Ho a same sex relationship purely consists of ‘acts’ behind closed doors. Maybe this is the only kind of relationship he knows. However, and it is quite a thing that something like this even needs to be said, but same sex couples, like mixed sex couples, do not axiomatically find that the sexual act is the most important aspect of their relationship.

Only in Hong Kong would the government have nominated the out homophobe Holden Chow to serve on the Equal Opportunities Commission. Chow never misses a chance to denounce homosexuality so it was no surprise to see him joining Ho in urging the government to give no support to the games on grounds that it would upset family oriented groups and religious communities.

Never willing to be outdone when it comes to expressing contempt for the people of Hong Kong, lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun piled in with the apocalyptic warning that official assistance for the games might   “tear apart society” and would be just like official approval for same-sex marriage.

These views were sufficiently extreme to draw a reprimand from the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO) because she knows full well that bigotry operates most effectively in the shadows. This is why after condemning these remarks, Ms Lam quickly shuffled back behind the bureaucratic curtain (her comfort zone) to avoid offering any concrete commitment to government assistance for the games.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

What all bigots have is a firm conviction that their bigotry is widely shared by others. Yet recent polling evidence in Hong Kong shows a massive change of attitude towards issues such as same sex marriage. Moreover during this year’s Pride Month an unprecedented number of businesses have declared their willingness to put their money where their mouths are by offering support.

However no one should be surprised by the most recent outburst of homophobia because this obsession is a thread that runs through the veins of every vile dictatorship and their cheerleaders. Explaining the sexual insecurity and anxieties of autocrats is somewhat fascinating but probably best left to those with greater expertise in these matters.

However no expertise is required to study the miserable history of how dictators play out their obsessions. The Nazis infamously sent gay people to extermination camps where they were forced to wear pink triangle badges on their tattered clothing, a symbol now turned on its head to be proudly worn by gay rights’ movement supporters.

The Soviet Union initially overturned Tsarist laws on homosexuality but very quickly backtracked and classified  same sex behaviour as a disease and a mental disorder, accompanied by witch hunts against homosexuals.

lgbt gay Pride Parade 2019.
Photo: inmediahk.net. via C.C.2.0.

Perhaps the worst offenders however are the religious bigots who, throughout history, have led the persecution, incarceration and torture of homosexuals, something that continues in the modern era in countries where these bigots wield state power.

What is equally notable is that as soon as the bigots are dislodged, society very rapidly moves to embrace equal rights and opportunities for citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. The demise of the vice-like grip on political power by the Catholic church in Ireland very quickly gave way to the election of a homosexual prime minister with questions of his sexuality barely being an issue. The collapse of the apartheid one-party state in South Africa led, with equal rapidity, to the abolishing of all sexually discriminatory laws and, guess what? The sky did not fall in, on the contrary this proved to be highly popular.

In Hong Kong’s socially primitive administration, most of whose members serve the two seemingly incompatible Gods of the  Communist Party and the Church, officials are more than ready to spend public money in the courts to keep in place discriminatory measures against same sex couples. To their credit the courts take seriously Hong Kong’s adherence to the international human and civil rights covenant and have kicked back some of these attempts.

lgbt pride parade
File photo: HKFP.

But what lies behind this determination to ensure the continuation of discrimination, not least in Hong Kong, a mere wannabe authoritarian state?

At heart it reflects the contempt that authoritarians have for the people they rule and their fear that diversity will lead to challenge. They are by instinct socially conservative and by practise wary of anything that extends liberty.

So, despite the impressive success of securing Hong Kong as a venue for the Gay Games and the enormous benefits it will bring to the SAR, the government is dragging its feet on even providing venues for these events and its most avid backers are using this as an opportunity to let the world know that those closest to power are as primitive in their political thinking as they are in their social thinking.

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Stephen Vines is a journalist, writer and broadcaster and ran companies in the food sector. He left Hong Kong with great reluctance in July 2021 following the crackdown on freedom of expression. Prior to departure he had been the host of the RTHK television current affairs programme ‘The Pulse’, a columnist for ‘Apple Daily’ and a contributor to other outlets. He continues to be a columnist for ‘HKFP’. Vines was the founding editor of 'Eastern Express' and founding publisher of 'Spike'. In London he was an editor at The Observer and in Asia has worked for international publications including, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC, Asia Times and The Independent and, during Hong Kong’s 2019/20 protests, for the Sunday Times. Vines is the author of several books, the latest being Defying the Dragon – Hong Kong and Worlds’ Biggest Dictatorship