Hong Kong Book Fair

‘Women are taking the lead in global affairs but gender inequality still a big issue ... including Hong Kong’

Former Taiwanese culture minister urges men in the city to be more progressive and let their partners pursue their careers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2016, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2016, 8:49pm

Women may be playing a more active role on the global political stage than ever before, but this does not necessarily reflect advances in gender equality, Taiwan’s former culture minister Lung Ying-tai argues.

Lung, a prominent writer, said that while Theresa May had recently become British prime minister, Tsai Ing-wen was elected leader of Taiwan and Hillary Rodham Clinton could be the next US president, women around the world still found themselves facing discrimination based on their sex. For some, the situation was getting even worse.

“A woman doesn’t automatically have consciousness of women’s rights,” Lung told the Post in an exclusive interview during Hong Kong Book Fair, which ended last week.

Women in power could even damage the cause if they were not careful, she warned.

Lung cited comments by Andrea Leadsom – May’s rival for leadership of the Conservative Party after David Cameron quit – in which the energy minister said being a mother gave her more of a stake in governance than May, who does not have children. Leadsom later apologised and withdrew from the race.

“The mistake the energy minister made was she did not realise a person’s ability to serve the public has nothing to do with her role in a family,” Lung said.

A similar mistake was made in an article published by a mainland Chinese mouthpiece about Tsai, she said, in which a male official accused her of expressing extreme views because she was single.

“The writer of the article and Andrea Leadsom are totally a pair on this issue,” Lung said. “The awareness of woman’s rights has nothing to do with their gender. Both men and women need to be educated.”

Lung recalled her days as Taiwan’s culture minister between 2012 and 2014. Almost all the experts her subordinates recommended for forming consultant committees were men, she said.

“The social tradition we have inherited is dominated by men,” Lung said, because the talent pool of government officials was composed of men, and most governments in the world faced a similar situation.

“Even if you have a female president, the unhealthy tradition could still continue.” For this reason she had consistently urged her subordinates to explore more female talent.

I have seen many progressive women in Hong Kong but not many such male figures
Lung Ying-tai

“The tradition lives in our breath. You can’t detect the ridiculousness if you get too used to it.”

When asked about Tsai’s policy on gender equality, Lung said it was too early to comment and she needed to wait and see.

While Lung encouraged women in Chinese communities to stand up for their rights in her new book, she said men in Hong Kong needed to become more progressive.

“Hong Kong women tend to be more independent and pushier than Taiwan women. Their capability at work often makes men feel threatened.

“A progressive man respects women and lets his partner pursue her own career. This is true love.

“I have seen many progressive women in Hong Kong but not many such male figures.”

This was probably why so many women chose to stay single, Lung added.

But she said women should not bow to social pressures in deciding whether to stay single or form a family. “Being single is not a tragedy. It is just one of many healthy options.”