The Hong Kong Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that transgender people in the city cannot change the gender on their identity cards without undergoing full sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

Chief Judge of the High Court Jeremy Poon, Vice President Susan Kwan, and Justice of Appeal Aarif Barma rejected the appeal filed by Q and Henry Edward Tse, who are transgender.

Henry Edward Tse
Henry Edward Tse outside the High Court on January 26, 2022. Photo: Supplied.

Q and Tse filed a challenge against a High Court judgement handed down in February 2019, which affirmed the government’s policy that a transgender person can only change the sex on their identity card if they undergo full SRS.

While both Tse and Q’s British passports stated their gender as male, Hong Kong legislation required them to undergo additional surgical procedures, including the removal of their uteruses and ovaries, and the construction of a penis or “some form of a penis.”

The pair went through mastectomy but neither underwent full sex reassignment surgery. According to the judgement, Q had concerns over the risks and complications of the invasive operations.

The three judges ruled that they were “not satisfied that any treatment prior to a full SRS, though significantly less intrusive, is equally effective as a criterion in achieving the legitimate aim of the policy.”

High Court
High Court. Photo: GovHK.

The court also rejected the applicants’ use of overseas precedents, with the judges ruling that the cases cited “concern different legal contexts and are distinguishable on their facts.”

‘Unnecessary and degrading surgery’

Following the court’s ruling, Q said in a statement published via his lawyer Michael Vidler that it was a “setback.”

“This is a setback, but I take comfort from the fact that there are others before us fighting
for LGBT+ rights to be recognised, who have had to appeal their cases all the way through the courts before succeeding,” Q said in the statement.

Tse, in the same statement, said he was “disappointed” by Wednesday’s judgment.

“I endure humiliation and discrimination every time I have to present my identity card, so this decision is a blow. I remain determined however to pursue my case to the Court of Final Appeal so that I don’t have to undergo unnecessary and degrading surgery in order to have an ID card that reflects my acquired gender,” said Tse.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.