Amnesty International is to launch a concern group for homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in Hong Kong as pressure mounts for a law against discrimination to be enacted. The move is regarded as crucial in minority circles as rumours grow about the future of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which could be in line for government cuts. It comes weeks after gay lobbyists began pushing for Hong Kong to host an annual gay pride march to maximise tourism returns from the 'pink dollar'. The co-ordinator of the new concern group, Liz Whitelam, said although homosexuals in Hong Kong did not face extreme persecution or physical violence, Amnesty International wanted to bring its work in the area to the level of that in other developed countries. 'Of course, Hong Kong is not Egypt or Zimbabwe, it is much more reasonable and safer. But that's not to say that we don't need to work on it,' she said. Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah, chairman of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities, said: 'We are confident that if a race discrimination law is passed, sexual orientation will come next. But I'm most worried about the future of the Equal Opportunities Commission, especially whether it can maintain its independent status.' Mr Shaw said about 5 to 10 per cent of Hong Kong's population was homosexual or bisexual. To illustrate the need for legislation, Ms Whitelam said an expatriate staying in Hong Kong on a work permit might not be able to bring a same-sex spouse as a dependent even though they had married legally at home. About 40 countries allow same-sex marriages. But the Immigration Department in Hong Kong only considers such matters case by case. In an attempt to raise the issue of homosexual marriage, Tommy Chen, 28, a gay man, and Yeo Wai-wai, 25, a lesbian, married at City Hall last March. They were hoping to gain eligibility to apply for public housing as a couple. 'The Home Affairs Bureau has done very little in educating the public about sexual orientation,' Mr Chen said. 'Other than a few leaflets and comics, I haven't seen any publicity in the print or broadcast media.' He also expressed concern that if the Equal Opportunities Commission was downgraded, laws on discrimination based on sexual orientation, age and race would get bogged down. The Home Affairs Bureau has said public consent is required before legislation can be introduced. 'We should address the problem with public education and instil a culture of greater objectivity, tolerance and mutual respect,' a spokeswoman said. But Mr Shaw said: 'The government can't use public opinion as a defence any more. Attitudes have changed tremendously.' A survey by Polytechnic University last May found more than 90 per cent of the 521 people interviewed believed their rights in work, education, choice of spouse and religion should be protected by law.