By Jerome Yau
The path to LGBT+ equality in Hong Kong has been long and winding. For more than 40 years, successive governments – save for on two occasions – preferred to dig in their heels. The breakthrough came in 2005 when William Roy Leung won his case against the government. For the first time, our courts held that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation would no longer be tolerated.
Since that landmark decision, in almost every one of the equality cases to come before the city’s courts, the LGBT+ protagonist has prevailed.
On the flip side, this also means a large amount of taxpayer dollars has been squandered by the government in its multiple, futile attempts to frustrate LGBT+ equality. This begs the million-dollar question – why is the government is so hell-bent on clinging to medieval morality?
Thanks to our colonial legacy, many people have been exposed to homophobic values. It is worth pointing out that Chinese culture is not inherently homophobic, and the current strain of homophobia can trace its lineage back to European medieval morality imported by the colonists and the missionaries.
As Hong Kong purports to have no official religion, there should be a separation between the government and religion. However, the latter still exerts a great deal of influence in our daily lives. Religious freedom doesn’t mean one can impose their religious views on others. The argument that LGBT+ equality tramples on religious freedom is baloney.
Now turning to the million-dollar question that I raised earlier. Having observed the government’s modus operandi over the years, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is engaged in a war of attrition to wear down litigants. Also, it has the dubious advantage of dropping the hot potato onto the judiciary. It appears that the government is focused on mollifying its core support base and less interested in governing for all Hong Kong people.
It is difficult to see why a supposedly fiscally conservative government acts in such a cavalier manner. The money spent fighting LGBT+ equality could be much better used.
Aside from fiscal irresponsibility, the government’s behaviour is also jarring. Time after time, our government loves to boast how international Hong Kong is. Well, a true international city embraces and celebrates its sexual diversity. If the government wants to repair Hong Kong’s tarnished image, it should seize the golden opportunity right in front of them – by welcoming Gay Games 2022.
Also, it could demonstrate its sincerity, stop draining the public coffers and start working with the LGBT+ community to come up with a comprehensive plan to address key issues like anti-discrimination law and equal marriage.
The won’t be an easy task. The naysayers are particularly good at spreading misinformation and disinformation to stir up fear. But if we are to believe in our shared core values, then it is no brainer for the government to advance LGBT+ equality. After all, it is about equal treatment before the law.
Hong Kong is ready to shine and become a beacon in Asia when it comes to LGBT+ equality. The people in the city is ready for it, the younger generation is overwhelmingly supportive of it and the Basic Law demands it.
The government and the LGBT+ community don’t have to be at loggerheads. Our interests converge – we all want to make Hong Kong a fair and harmonious city, where people irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, can live a happy and dignified life and be true to themselves.
Better late than never. We don’t need excuses and lip service. We want action, now!
Jerome Yau is a co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality.
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