Hong Kong is still a backward fishing village when it comes to some basic attitudes

Yonden Lhatoo is appalled by the medieval thinking on display this week over HSBC supporting gay rights and mothers breastfeeding babies in public

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 8:09pm

I love this city to bits, but I can’t help cringing sometimes at how embarrassingly backward and regressive we can be.

Take, for example, the news this week that Hong Kong’s so-called “family concern groups” are upset at banking giant HSBC for celebrating diversity by decking its two iconic lions in rainbow colours at its headquarters in Central.

They are outraged that the bleeding liberal hearts at HSBC, if such an anomalous species exists in the soulless, money-grubbing world of banking, are “trampling on family values” with this show of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“This kind of policy literally forces every shareholder, willing or not, to recognise the homosexual lifestyle. It may intrude upon the freedom of conscience as well as affect their rights as a shareholder,” the organiser of a signature petition against the display said.

Watch: HSBC’s rainbow lions cause a storm in Hong Kong

Really? Take a chill pill, Mr Moral Crusader. I totally get the argument that one man’s way of life should not be foisted upon another, but we’re talking about a temporary exhibit on a private company’s premises.

Hong Kong’s homophobic government refuses to put a stop to dangerous nonsense such as ‘gay conversion therapy’

Stephen and Stitt (yes, it turns out the lions actually have names) are still sitting far apart and not in danger of mating, even though homosexuality is a fact of life in the animal kingdom. And it’s not like HSBC counter staff are all sporting rainbow-hued feather boas and nipple rings, or whatever your distorted image of gay people is. Nobody’s values are being eroded.

I won’t bother going into the usual anti-bigotry sermons about diversity, tolerance and inclusion, but if you’re out to defend family values and shield your children from evil influences, surely there must be far more pressing ills in society than a couple of gay lion statues at HSBC.

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It doesn’t help that Hong Kong’s homophobic government refuses to put a stop to dangerous nonsense such as “gay conversion therapy”, which involves “treatments” ranging from counselling to cold showers to “cure” people of their same-sex urges. It beggars belief that, in this day and age, we still have government-sanctioned social workers peddling such snake oil to confused youngsters.

Another embarrassment for the city this week was all the ballyhoo over a mother breastfeeding her baby in the back seat of a taxi. The cabbie allegedly took a photo of her and posted it on the internet, setting off a storm online over privacy and personal choice. Police have arrested the driver.

A mother breastfeeding her baby – the most natural and necessary activity since humans first surfaced on this planet 200,000 years ago – is still a matter of great controversy and emotional debate in this modern metropolis.

Hong Kong mum angry at nurses scolding her for breastfeeding ... in a hospital

Breastfeeding in public must be accepted in Hong Kong

To his credit, Hong Kong’s health minister was quick to condemn the taxi driver and urge everyone to show respect for breastfeeding mums. Now, if only his department could extend that sense of outrage to really help women feed their babies according to basic biological design – starting with doing something about that mercenary nexus of nurses, doctors and pharmaceutical companies that begins to peddle infant formula over mother’s milk to women still lying in their hospital beds after delivery. And those unscrupulous advertisements that continue to convince mothers that powdered cow milk laced with chemicals is a valid substitute for breastfeeding.

It’s quite depressing that, for all the talk of how advanced and progressive this city is, we’re still stuck in a morass of medieval mindsets when it comes to such matters. In that respect, we’re still that primitive fishing village of yore, sitting on a barren rock.

Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post