Hong Kong government under fire in LGBT row

HONG KONG (AFP) – LGBT rights campaigners have hit out at Hong Kong’s government after it announced it would appeal a landmark decision granting a British lesbian the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her partner.

The ruling by the Court of Appeal in September sparked hopes that hurdles for same-sex couples might be reduced in the socially conservative southern Chinese city.

But the immigration department has announced it will seek to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong’s highest court.

“Having studied the Court of Appeal’s judgment and sought legal advice, the immigration department has filed an application for leave to appeal against the judgment,” the department said in a statement emailed to AFP on Thursday.

The September decision granted the woman, referred to in court only as QT, the right to a dependant visa which she had been denied by immigration authorities, meaning she could only remain in the city on a visitor visa which did not allow her to work.

The judgment ruled that authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers”.

Campaigners described it as a crucial step for Hong Kong, which they say lags on LGBT rights. The city does not recognise gay marriage and only decriminalised homosexuality in 1991.

Openly gay lawmaker Raymond Chan said if the immigration department won its case, it would “not benefit anybody”.

He also criticised the government for failing to openly support Hong Kong’s successful bid to host the Gay Games in 2022, announced on Tuesday, the first time the event will come to Asia.

“The government would rather spend taxpayers’ money to appeal a case which in my view does not contribute to society or benefit anybody if won, than to support a major international sports, culture, and tourism event such as the Gay Games,” Chan told AFP.

The government said it “noted” the successful Gay Games bid in a statement, adding that it was “committed to promoting equal opportunities”.

Campaigner Gigi Chao said the current administration’s focus on family values tended to exclude the LGBT community.

“They’re never included and never discussed,” she told AFP.

Chao also disputed some critics’ argument that the LGBT community is at odds with traditional Chinese values.

“If you look at all the cultural references from historic Chinese opera and storytelling, a lot of stories have covered this topic,” she told AFP.

Chao made global headlines in 2012 when her Hong Kong tycoon father offered HK$500 million (US$65 million) to any man that could convince his openly gay daughter to marry him.

Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission said it was “pleased” the government‘s policy agenda had said it would work on LGBT equality but added authorities were yet to follow its 2016 recommendation to start consulting on introducing “comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation” to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

Dennis Philipse, head of the Gay Games bid team – which was backed by a raft of major businesses including Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific and Credit Suisse Hong Kong – said it had liaised with the city’s tourism board and the home affairs bureau during the bidding process.

The government told the team they would be able to book event venues “just like any other sports organisation”, Philipse told AFP.

He added he hoped the awarding of the games to Hong Kong would “strengthen the level” of government support for the event.