Outrage after two transgender women refused entry at Hong Kong International Airport

The pair, who were travelling to the city from Bangkok, were told they “did not satisfy the purpose of their holiday” to immigration officers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 9:47am

A rights group has urged authorities to treat transgender people with more respect after two women were refused entry to the city at Hong Kong International Airport on Saturday.

The two transgender women were visiting the city from Bangkok for sightseeing and shopping.

Officials rejected the women’s visit because they did not satisfy the purpose of their holiday, the Immigration Department said.

The pair were told to sign two documents; one to confirm they had completed full gender reassignment surgery and one to confirm they would voluntarily go back to Thailand immediately. After refusing to sign the documents the women returned to Bangkok on Saturday night.

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Lawyer Jonathan Man Ho-ching, representing one of the women, said he could not rule out the “possibility” of prejudice and discrimination and said there was a “lack of understanding ... of different sexes and genders.”

The lawyer said the women were also asked by officials if they were “cut already” – blunt language for asking if they had undergone full gender reassignment surgery.

Joanne Leung Wing-yan, chairwoman of the Transgender Resource Centre, argued the pair’s travel history – which included Switzerland, Spain, Taiwan, South Korea – gave “no reason” to ask them to leave.

“I just hope there will be a different kind of treatment and understanding for transgender people,” she said.

An Immigration Department spokeswoman said the tourists were “suspicious” and “failed to satisfy” that they were genuine travellers. She said the travellers would not automatically be approved or denied entry in future.

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Hong Kong’s handling of transgender people was criticised in a 2013 case at the airport, where the victim claimed immigration and customs officers behaved “like animals’’ during a body search and mocked her during a nine-hour ordeal.

Both departments denied any wrongdoing.