HK's gay community sends delegation to landmark UN event

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 March, 2004, 12:00am

Activists will urge governments to stop homosexual discrimination

Hong Kong's gay community will be represented at a landmark discussion with the UN Human Rights Commission on the status of and respect for sexual orientation rights.

Veteran gay rights activist Chung To, of the Tongzhi Joint Committee, will join non-government organisations (NGOs) from around the world in Geneva to lobby governments to vote for a resolution put forward by Brazil and co-sponsored by several other countries.

The resolution expresses deep concern at human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and calls on states to promote and protect the rights of people of diverse sexual backgrounds. The meeting begins today.

It is the first time that a resolution specifically focusing on sexual orientation has been brought to the commission. Hong Kong's gay community has also been lobbying China's foreign ministry to vote for the resolution.

'There are quite a number of NGOs that have been invited to the UN on this issue and we have been networking a lot with other groups to make this happen,' he said.

In a sign of warming relations with the gay community, Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping yesterday attended the annual Tongzhi Community Media Awards as a guest of honour. This was the first time a minister attended an event held by the group despite invitations every year.

While Dr Ho avoided any questions about demands for a law banning discrimination against sexual minorities, he had some thoughts on a question posed about how the gay community could be patriotic.

'To love your country, you should first love your home,' he said. 'To love your home you have to respect people first. To respect people, you have to respect yourself first. To respect yourself, you should respect your life first.'

Mr To said he was pleased that Dr Ho had agreed to attend the award ceremony after the group's invitation was twice declined by former secretary for home affairs Lam Woon-kwong.

'This is good step that the minister has agreed to come as the guest of honour,' he said.

But Mr To said he also hoped the government would move beyond its decision to tackle discrimination against homosexuals through education alone instead of legislating against it.