Dr York Chow: My faith won't hurt gay rights in Hong Kong
Anti-discrimination boss 'liberal-minded' when it comes to sexual orientation
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The new leader of the Equal Opportunities Commission has described himself as a "liberal-minded Christian" who is not prejudiced against gays.
But his critics are not convinced. They say Dr York Chow Yat-ngok must broaden his mindset to embrace all human rights values, even if they go against his religious faith.
"I am a Christian and considered a liberal-minded Christian. I [believe] … no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," Chow told the South China Morning Post.
"The community's understanding and perception of this topic is diverse and sometimes even polarised. More education, discussion, debate, gathering of views and data on discrimination is necessary to build a community consensus," he said.
Chow was responding to his critics for the first time since his appointment was announced on Tuesday. Many fear his religious beliefs will hold back the commission's work on advancing gay rights in Hong Kong.
Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said it was important that the head of the anti-discrimination watchdog had the drive to uphold and advance equality and rights, regardless of their religious beliefs.
But Law said there had been no evidence Chow was committed to upholding those rights, based on his track record as health minister.
"Everyone has the freedom of religion, but their religious beliefs should be completely separate from their public duties.
"Like anyone else, Dr Chow has the right to his Christian faith. But his religious beliefs should not have any influence on his public duties in the commission," Law said.
Chow has big shoes to fill, according to multimedia producer Bryan Chan Chi-yan, who works for publications including gay lifestyle magazine Dim Sum.
Chan said he hoped Chow would follow in the steps of his predecessor, Lam Woon-kwong.
"I was really impressed by Lam. We expect Dr Chow to be brave enough to speak out for not only gay, but bisexual and transsexual rights," Chan said.
During his time as the equal opportunities chief, Lam pushed the debate over legalising same-sex marriage and even criticised the government for remaining mute on gay issues.
But when his appointment was announced, Chow refrained from saying whether he backed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.