Airport outrage shows Hong Kong government full of hot air on LGBT rights

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 9:48pm

Dr Suen Yiu-tung was right on the money when he argued that the way Hong Kong tackles the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights can be used as a yardstick to test “whether it stands up to its claim to be Asia’s world city” (“HK needs to achieve greater equality for same-sex couples”, September 27).

Sadly, the government is full of hot air when it comes to protecting the rights and dignity of the city’s sexual minorities.

At the Pink Dot event on September 25, it was encouraging to see support from the current and past chairmen of the Equal Opportunities Commission, as well as consuls general and diplomatic representatives from countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. There was no official representative from the Hong Kong government, and one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this was a sign of where the government stood on LGBT rights.

More alarming, however, was the allegation that two transgender women were rudely treated on arrival by immigration officers at the airport. According to media reports, they arrived from Bangkok on September 24 and had planned to visit the city. What I found outrageous was that the two women were asked by officials whether they had undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Not only did the question seem irrelevant for the purpose of immigration control, the way the question was asked – whether they were “cut already” – was totally inappropriate and offensive.

Travellers arriving at our ports of entry should always be treated with courtesy and respect, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, citizenship, sexual orientation and gender identity. If a traveller is found inadmissible based on bona fide reasons, he/she can be dealt with professionally and according to due process. In this case, it seemed like the immigration officers discharged their duties with prejudice.

Over the years, the government has made many statements about its commitment to the protection of human rights. But these two latest examples suggest otherwise.

If we truly want to make Hong Kong a welcoming place for all, we must tell the government that its feet-dragging on gender recognition, sexual orientation discrimination legislation and the recognition of same-sex relationships is totally unacceptable.

After all, LGBT rights are human rights and LGBT people deserve to live their lives with dignity and respect.

Jerome Yau, Happy Valley