As Hong Kong prepares to make history as the first place in Asia to host the Gay Games, an international sporting and cultural event, one of its organisers has expressed confidence that censorship will not be an issue in the city. The games, which were postponed for a year due to Covid-19, will be co-hosted by Hong Kong and Guadalajara in Mexico from November 3 to 9 this year.

This marks the first time that the Gay Games, which have been going for 40 years, will be held in both Asia and Latin America.

gay games 2023
Photo: Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023, via Facebook.

Despite outbursts by various lawmakers during 2021, Lisa Lam, co-chair and general counsel of the Gay Games Hong Kong, said she was unconcerned about potential protests against the games. “[O]f course there will be different opinions, but I hope conversation and communication can be stimulated because of this event,” Lam said while speaking on a radio show on Friday morning.

Potential censorship

Speaking during a press conference about the games on Tuesday, Lam said that the team was excited to host the game, despite the challenges they had faced since winning the hosting bid in 2017. The games had also received support from various parties, including an international school that offered them venues, the co-chair added.

Last year, Hong Kong Gay Games founder and former leader Dennis Philipse announced that he was stepping down, citing “continuing uncertainty” over the city’s international travel regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dennis Philipse
Dennis Philipse. Photo: Gay Games Hong Kong.

When asked during her radio appearance about censorship in Hong Kong, and whether participants would be allowed to express their own opinions, Lam expressed confidence that censorship would not be an issue. She added that she hoped “all participants from around the globe could abide by local laws and respect local culture.”

Lawmakers’ criticism

In 2021, pro-Beijing lawmakers Junius Ho and Priscilla Leung lashed out at the government for supporting the Gay Games. 

During a Legislative Council meeting that June, Ho said Hong Kong did not want the event’s “dirty money” – the organiser expected it to attract HK$1 billion worth of revenue to the city – adding that he was worried it might lead to legalizing same-sex marriage in the future. 

Leung, said at the same meeting that the Gay Games might divide society and doubted whether the government would impart the same effort to promote heterosexual monogamy.

A 2018 study showed that most Hongkongers support same-sex marriage. By 2020, opposition to LGBTQ+ rights had reached a record low, with 60 per cent of survey respondents saying they agreed there should be legal safeguards against discrimination based on sexual orientation in Hong Kong.

Junius Ho
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Regarding the controversies related to the Gay Games, Lam said the event was open to everyone, not just a particular group of people, and expressed hope that it would promote dialogue between people with different opinions.

The seven-day event will include a range of sporting events, as well as art and cultural programmes such as concerts featuring local and international artists, exhibitions, and a festival village. The diverse programme aims to celebrate the richness of LGBTQ+ culture, the organiser said.

The Hong Kong edition will also feature new sporting events, including mahjong and dragon boat competitions. All events, except for the mahjong competition, have found their venues, mostly in private locations. 

“This is Hong Kong’s time, especially as we emerge strongly from the pandemic. By celebrating diversity, love and inclusivity, Gay Games will help show the world the liveliness and vibrancy of Hong Kong this November,” Lam said during Tuesday’s press conference.

The total economic impact on Paris – the host of the last Gay Games in 2017 – of this global event was over 100 million euros, according to the Federation of Gay Games.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp
2023 fund hkfp
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

contact hkfp

Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.