Hiring of 'gay cure' doctor stirs anger

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 June, 2011, 12:00am


The Social Welfare Department has angered a gay rights group by inviting a psychiatrist who believes homosexuals can be turned into heterosexuals to give a talk to social workers.

The speaker, Dr Hong Kwai-wah, a psychiatrist affiliated to a Christian group, said he only taught attendees how to communicate with gay and lesbian youths. But the rights group said his presence was offensive.

'We know Dr Hong had practised conversion therapy ... We don't think it has a scientific [basis] and it has made some depressed,' said Yeo Wai-wai, a member of Rainbow of Hong Kong.

Yeo and five other members protested outside the Lady Trench Training Centre in Wan Chai, where Dr Hong Kwai-wah delivered the 31/2 hour workshop to about 30 government social workers yesterday.

Hong said he adopted a neutral attitude in the talk. He confirmed that he believed in so-called conversion therapy, in which homosexuals are helped to change their sexual orientation, but said it was not the focus yesterday.

'I only taught them how to understand the same-sex issue better,' Hong said. 'I didn't tell the social workers they should help change their clients' sexual orientation. Social workers should respect clients' choices ... but they don't have to be always pro-gay either.

'I agree sexual orientation is not up to people to choose, but they can choose how to behave,' he added.

Yeo said strategies used in conversion therapy, such as bathing in cold water, doing sport and continuous prayer, were ridiculous.

She said Hong had founded a charity to counsel homosexuals that had declared homosexuality a 'sin' on its website.

'Given his background, we are afraid that the speaker will spread the wrong message,' she said.

One woman social worker who attended the session said conversion therapy was not mentioned.

A spokeswoman for the Social Welfare Department said it had also invited gay and lesbian groups to conduct training.

'Multiple perspectives [are] essential for social workers to make professional and independent assessments of their cases,' she said.