Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog presses for law to protect sexual minorities

Statement urging the government to launch a public consultation is backed by 75 organisations, including Google and Goldman Sachs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 8:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 1:40pm

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog has issued a statement with the support of 75 major organisations calling for legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

The signatories include Google, investment bank Goldman Sachs, global law firm Linklaters, and four religious groups. But HSBC, which last year controversially decked its iconic lions in rainbow colours to show support for sexual minorities, was not on the list.

Watch: HSBC’s rainbow lions cause a storm in Hong Kong

The statement, jointly issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and Chinese University, urged the government to launch a public consultation as soon as possible as the city was losing its competitive edge in the global talent contest.

“It is a historical moment,” said Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, EOC chairman, as it was the first time that so many business enterprises in Hong Kong had openly supported such a law.

Chan said it was crucial for the city to be able to recruit and retain both local and foreign talent by promoting a more diverse and inclusive working environment, especially when other places were shifting in that direction.

“As home to the headquarters of a considerable number of international firms ... Hong Kong should modernise its anti-discrimination legislation to ensure it retains its position in Asia,” he added.

Lack of legal protection is driving sexual minorities out of Hong Kong

Despite the global trend in business, Professor Suen Yiu-tung from Chinese University said LGBTI people in Hong Kong still experienced “significant discrimination” in their public life.

This had prompted 39 per cent of them to consider leaving the city due to the lack of legal protection, according to a survey Suen conducted last year.

These people were “disproportionately young and well-educated” – more than 70 per cent were under 29 years old and had received an undergraduate degree or above.

“These are the talents that Hong Kong should be very keen to retain,” he said.

But activist Roger Wong Wai-ming, convenor of the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group, accused the EOC of “violating human rights” by issuing such a statement.

“Those organisations are not local companies. They are affected by Western values,” he said.

We prefer to work through other channels to support the LGBT community
An HSBC spokeswoman

About 400,000 LGBTI people, or 6 per cent of the population, live in Hong Kong.

Despite the wide support of major financial firms for the statement, HSBC refused to sign.

The bank gained itself a reputation for being pro-LGBT with its rainbow campaign at its head office in Central last year, leading to accusations that it had trampled on local family values.

“Our support for the LGBT community is already visible and well-known and we prefer to work through other channels to support the LGBT community in Hong Kong,” an HSBC spokeswoman said.

The Hong Kong Bar Association supported the EOC’s statement and urged the government to start a public consultation as soon as possible.