Hong Kong’s Gay Games “have not been a political organisation, nor carried any political objectives,” an organiser has said, amid anti-LGBTQ criticism of same-sex marriage from some lawmakers.

Lisa Lam. Photo: Gay Games Hong Kong 2023
Lisa Lam. Photo: Gay Games Hong Kong 2023

Lisa Lam, co-chair of the inclusive sporting event – which runs from Friday to November 11 – said on Commercial Radio on Friday morning that the games’ sole purpose has been to make a “sporting, arts, and cultural event” which promotes “diversity and solidarity.”

“We have not been a political organisation… we wished to show the world the vibrant, energetic side of Hong Kong, and the feeling of diversity and solidarity,” Lam said in Cantonese.

Her remarks came after a group of self-proclaimed “patriotic citizens” filed a petition against the games at the legislature on Wednesday, as a lawmaker claimed that hosting the event amounted to “soft resistance” and a threat to national security.

“Organising the Gay Games is inviting trouble and threatening national security,” a statement from the petitioners read.

Junius Ho, a prominent anti-LGBTQ lawmaker, received the petition saying that the games and the agenda of pushing for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong were a “sugar-coated poison.”

“The agenda [of promoting same-sex marriage] contravenes our current constitution, our current laws and our national security law,” he said in Cantonese on Wednesday.

Lam on Friday did not directly respond to Ho’s claims.

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

When asked if the Hong Kong Gay Games was a platform for same-sex equality, Lam said that they had consistently urged people not to “apply labels.” She did not elaborate.

When asked if it is correct to say the games were not a tool for advocating the legislation of same-sex marriage, she said “this has never been our agenda.”

She also said that the games would not host any sessions that address the issue of same-sex marriage in the city.

Whilst same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1991, Hong Kong has no laws to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, the provision of goods and services, or from hate speech. Equal marriage remains illegal, although a 2023 survey showed that 60 per cent of Hongkongers support it. Despite repeated government appeals, courts have granted those who married – or who entered civil partnerships – abroad some recognition in terms of tax, spousal visas and public housing.

‘Shaking core values’

Lawmakers from the city’s largest pro-Beijing party have also expressed concerns over the “impact” that the games would bring to “traditional family values.”

Holden Chow and Chan Hok-fung, both vice-chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), held a press conference outside government headquarters on Friday, alongside three DAB candidates set to run in the newly-restricted District Council race in December.

Holden Chow, vice-chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, meets the press outside the government headquarters on November 3, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.
Holden Chow, vice-chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, meets the press outside government headquarters on November 3, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.

Chow claimed that Hong Kong abides by the marriage of husband and wife – a man and a woman – and that families composed of heterosexual spouses have been a core family value. He claimed that a string of recent legal cases ruling in favour of the rights of same-sex couples amounted to a “recognition” of same-sex marriage, which would affect traditional family values.

“While the DAB respects different sexual orientations and supports the elimination of discrimination, we staunchly oppose the legalisation of same-sex marriage,” he said in Cantonese. “The DAB pledges to uphold traditional marriage between a man and a woman, as well as the core values of traditional families.”

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, meets the press outside the government headquarters on November 3, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, meets the press outside government headquarter on November 3, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.

He added that the Gay Games was a controversial event that triggered anxiety from parents, schools and religious groups. It is “regrettable” that the event would be held and it will “shake the core values” of the city, he added, without giving evidence.

HKFP asked whether he had the same concern over the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling in September that requires the government to establish an alternative legal framework to recognise same-sex partnerships within two years. In response, he said he had expressed “grave concern” over the ruling and was “quite disappointed.”

“When [the government] needs to formulate policy to sort of recognise any kind of same-sex couple relationship, they need to strike a balance with how to protect traditional family values,” he said.

Embattled games

Despite criticism from lawmakers, top government advisor Regina Ip has denied Junius Ho’s claims that Hong Kong’s Gay Games are a threat to national security. Ip will be an officiating guest on Saturday, when the games formally open.

See also: Explainer: What is Hong Kong’s Gay Games and why has it seen so much controversy?

Around 2,000 athletes are expected to participate in the nine-day long Gay Games – the first to be held in an Asian city – according to the organisers.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.