No rainbows: with lukewarm response to Gay Games, Hong Kong government reveals true colours
Luisa Tam says while authorities toot their horn about multiculturalism, diversity is only championed when they feel it benefits city’s image
Hong Kong is seriously pathetic when it comes to diversity and the government is to blame for the stunted growth of true diversity.
Want some proof? Look no further than the recent lukewarm reaction from our government to the city’s successful bid to host the 2022 “Gay Olympics”. This is a landmark victory for Hong Kong because it will make us the first Asian city ever to host this international event since its inception in 1982.
If our competitors had won, no doubt they would have burst with joy. But here in Hong Kong, the only reaction from the government was that they had “noted” the outcome.
It goes to show that officials pay lip service when it comes to supporting the city as a diverse and inclusive society. They only boast about how multicultural the community is or take pride in identifying Hong Kong as “Asia’s world city”, but they take no action to nurture and support diversity in all forms.
Diversity is about valuing differences in gender, ethnicity, language, culture, lifestyle and sexuality. Fundamentally speaking, it is about equality and respect for all human beings. It’s certainly not a platform on which to sell a city’s international image, or a commodity or a means to an unjustified end.
Embracing the Gay Games is just one way to demonstrate Hong Kong is a place that values talent, regardless of different backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles. And most importantly, it speaks volumes about the city’s character and its values.
Every city in the world should cherish differences, allow people the freedom to make choices in life and encourage understanding of social behaviours and attitudes that are not mainstream. Hong Kong, which prides itself on being an open, international city, should set such an example and do it loudly and proudly.
However, the government seems to view diversity as if it’s just a tool to boost creativity, innovation or help embellish the city’s image. But truly how diverse is our public administration? There is still an apparent lack of women and minorities in top leadership positions in the public sector.
By giving the Gay Games the cold shoulder, the government has inadvertently exposed its unconscious bias. It seems to be afraid that by proactively associating with the Gay Games and supporting this, it might give the impression that it condones homosexuality, which it fears could open the floodgates leading to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hong Kong.
It’s pitiful that many Hong Kong officials still hold on to the notion of “culture fit”. It’s a common term used in the private sector to describe whether a prospective candidate is a good match with a workplace culture. This tribal mentality that favours people similar to us and promotes conformity is not only terribly outdated, it’s also fraught with bias. The idea has become so unpopular that it’s being dropped by more and more companies and progressive governments.
Many companies have realised that greater diversity benefits all parties concerned as it leads to diversity of thought, attracts top talent, expands customer base, and ultimately boosts their competitive edge and business. This approach can similarly benefit governments.
Hong Kong needs to make progress in this regard or risk falling behind. Our government officials need to lead by example and show how much they really care about equality and universal values.
First, they need to understand that supporting the Gay Games is an affirmative obligation to demonstrate to the world that this government accepts people with dissimilar backgrounds, cultures, religions, and lifestyles that don’t necessarily align with those of the administration or individual officials.
It’s time for the government to reset its mind and attitude by promoting inclusive efforts inside and outside the public sector and accepting the reality that diversity is an asset that adds value to our community.
True leaders understand that diversity and multiculturalism form the basis for the protection of human dignity and play an integral part in education for all ages, which is especially important today when the world has become ever more divisive and distrustful. But, first and foremost, we must encourage our children to develop an open mind.
Children’s minds are truly beautiful as they are unbiased, flexible and adaptive to new experiences and ideas. I am still very proud of a drawing my daughter gave me when she was only eight years old. What caught my attention was the message she wrote: “I am gay. My mother is gay and her friends are gay. It’s a gay world.” When I asked if she knew what gay meant, she simply said: “It’s about being happy and surrounded by people who are happy to be around you.”
Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post