Hong Kong behind mainland on gay rights issues, says Gigi Chao

City lags on gay issues, she says, as her father opposes her same-sex marriage with money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 3:11am

Hong Kong is more conservative than the United States, or even the mainland, when it comes to sexual orientation, according to the daughter of property tycoon Cecil Chao Sze-tsung.

Gigi Chao, the developer's eldest daughter, who reportedly had wed her gay partner Sean Eav in France, said Hong Kong remained all too conventional, despite its cosmopolitan appearance.

"The reason why the city is so traditional is that it is still made up of family-centric units," she said. "It's quite different from the US or the mainland, where it is quite common for people to leave the countryside for cities."

In doing so, youngsters gain the freedom to adopt any lifestyle, she added. In contrast, Hongkongers usually return to where they were born after receiving an overseas education.

Over the past year, Canto-pop star Anthony Wong Yiu-ming and actress Susanna Kwan Kuk-ying have come out as gay. The city has also elected its first openly gay lawmaker, radio and television host "Slow Beat" Raymond Chan Chi-chuen.

Many in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community had never purposely hid their identities, Gigi said, but others had because they knew they would face discrimination.

Changing attitudes was more effective than anti-discrimination laws, she said. "Even though I'm a person this affects, changing the law is not a priority."

The offer by Chao's father, Cecil Chao, the owner of developer Cheuk Nang, to pay HK$500 million to any man who marries her has become a hot topic in the local LGBT community.

One gay rights activist said Chao senior should drop the idea and mend his relationship with his daughter. "Mr Chao is wasting his time and money … he is ruining his relationship with his daughter," said Reggie Ho, chairman of sexual minorities advocacy group Pink Alliance. "[Cecil Chao's idea] is, in fact, very humiliating. This only insults his daughter and breaks her heart."

Ho praised Gigi Chao and her partner for making a brave move in committing to each other, even though same-sex marriage is not recognised in Hong Kong.

"Many parents have trouble dealing with their children's same-sex relationships, thinking that it's not true love or not legitimate," Ho said. "But if they can sit down with their children … it is not as negative as they imagine."