Thousands of Christians staged a rally outside government headquarters yesterday to show their opposition to proposed legislation that would outlaw discrimination against sexual minorities.
The Evangelical Free Church of China Yan Fook Church, which organised the event, estimated that up to 50,000 people joined the "Inclusive Love Praying Concert" at Tamar Park, Admiralty, to voice their disapproval through singing and praying. They said such a law would restrict their freedom of speech on gay rights. Police put the turnout at 5,000.
"If this becomes the law, those who oppose homosexuality will have their freedom of speech restricted," said the Reverend Jayson Tam, convenor of the "praying concert".
In a separate public event, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying would disclose shortly whether a public consultation would be launched.
"In this regard, our colleagues have already made preparations. We are ready [for a public consultation] once the chief executive finds it is the appropriate time … Once there are further communications and public discussions [in the community], I believe there will be an opportunity to conduct a public consultation, details of which will be addressed in the policy address," Tam said.
The chief executive delivers his maiden policy address on Wednesday.
The Reverend Tam said there were examples in Western countries of similar legislation leading to "reverse" discrimination. He added they did not oppose the government launching a consultation on the law, but they would voice their opposing views.
Wong Man-leung, 55, a Christian at the event, said: "I respect [gay people]. But I may be in trouble if I carelessly say something wrong about them."
He said homosexuality was against the idea of family in traditional Chinese culture.
Ann Chan, 22, a student, said: "I don't want the legislation as homosexuality goes against our Christian values." She was open to a consultation but would express her opposition.
Openly gay lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said participants were misled. "I believe they were mobilised to come because there were people saying if legislation is approved, they can't talk about homosexuality in church or even Christian doctrine anymore," he said.
Chan said he was not hopeful that the chief executive would include the consultation in his policy address, but he would continue fighting for it as the first step to legislation to protect gay rights.
A gay-friendly clergy said Christians should be more inclusive of homosexuality.
"The world has changed. We should give gay people more reasonable treatment," said Silas Wong Kwok-yiu of the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship.
The South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that there was no timetable within the government for rolling out the consultation because it wanted to deal with "livelihood matters" first, a government source said.
In November, the Legislative Council voted down a motion to launch a public consultation.
"The government is open-minded on whether to consult the public [about] the legislation of the anti-discrimination law. The chief executive will further explain the matter … in the policy address," the minister reiterated.