SEXUAL MINORITY RIGHTS

Hong Kong’s eighth annual Pride Parade sees 6,800 marchers call for law to protect LGBT community from discrimination

Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Alfred Chan Cheung-ming calls on whoever is elected city’s next chief executive to push forward long-stalled process

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 4:10pm

The chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission joined advocates for LGBT rights in the eighth annual Pride Parade on Saturday and called on whoever is elected the city’s next chief executive in March to push forward sexual orientation discrimination laws.

Despite the rain, 6,800 people took part in the march, including more than a dozen top diplomats and representatives of European cultural institutes.

Commission head Alfred Chan Cheung-ming said he expected the government to start drafting a law next year.

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“I would hope that after March the government would promise to hold a consultation on the issue, and hopefully by the end of next year we would have a drafting committee,” Chan said.

He said progress on the issue had been slow so far, but he saw “encouraging” signs.

“The government already promised a liaison group with the EOC, so we can start looking at how recommendations should move forward,” he said.

The anti-discrimination watchdog submitted two reports to the government earlier this year. The latest encouraged authorities to begin a public consultation and enact legislation to cover sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

But such legislation has been contentious, with some Christian groups opposing it or calling it unnecessary.

Hong Kong’s current discrimination legislation only covers race, sex, disability and family status.

“The purpose and the demand of this year’s parade is to urge the government to do something on the legislation, such as a public consultation. We think it is the right time to do so,” said Yeo Wai-wai, a spokeswoman for the pride parade.

According to a survey of 1,000 people released in January, 91.8 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 backed legislation covering sexual orientation discrimination.

About half of respondents who called themselves religious said they would support the law.

“We do not think the government will do it during this term, but we hope the next government will start the process,” Yeo said.

Green was the colour of this year’s march to show that “the Hong Kong population has already given the green light to the LGBT community, especially for a sexual orientation discrimination ordinance”, she said. “We think it’s about time for the government to put it into law.”

Lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu were named parade ambassadors.

Barrister and Civic Party legislator Yeung said a public consultation should be held as soon as possible. “In a society that is not equal, eventually everyone will get hurt … An anti-discrimination act is the minimum and a very fundamental step,” he said.

Yeung said he was also putting his hopes on the next chief executive.

“I don’t think the CY Leung administration has the courage to bring up this issue in Legco … We have the fundamental groundwork done by the EOC … now it’s just a matter of courage and determination,” he said.

United States consul general Kurt Tong said “it’s time for the green light for LGBT rights in Hong Kong”. He reassured those concerned about the election of Donald Trump as the next American president that US law and values were based on equality.

Trump’s election win was extra motivation for Queennie Wong, 24, a social worker, to join this year’s march for the first time.

“I am afraid about what might happen,” she said.

In Hong Kong, “there’s not enough protection for the LGBT community. We still face a lot of discrimination … Marriage is not legal, there are few unisex toilets, and we can’t enjoy the same rights within a relationship.”

Felix Lo and Marco Lau, both 21 and university students, also joined the parade.

“Lots of people fear coming out because that might damage their career. To have legislation is a way of influencing and pushing for a change in mentalities,” Lo said.

Lau meanwhile said both laws and greater education on LGBT issues for the population at large were needed.

“There is discrimination and many misunderstandings because of ignorance,” he said.