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Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Hong Kong’s annual pride event in November was held at an indoor market last year. Photo: Nora Tam

Letters | Hong Kong’s ‘new chapter’ should include greater progress on LGBT+ equality

  • As society becomes more progressive, the opportunity opens up for a bolder push to enact anti-discrimination laws, ban conversion therapy, and introduce even more inclusive practices at work

Culture is never static, it is dynamic. Over the years, we have seen steady progress on LGBT+ equality globally.

How does Hong Kong fare against other places around the world? The short answer is we can do a better job when it comes to embracing LGBT+ people.

Notwithstanding the key legal victories and the government’s pronouncement about promoting “equal opportunities on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity through various publicity and educational measures”, we still have no laws dealing with discrimination, same-sex relationships and gender identity.
Also, conversion therapy – the discredited and dangerous practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – is still legal. Obviously, these shortcomings require immediate attention from policymakers.

First, LGBT+ equality is fundamentally an issue concerning the well-being of sexual minorities. We should not perpetuate a system that effectively shuns sexual minorities who want to live a life true to themselves.

Second, our traditional culture is totally compatible with LGBT+ equality. Homosexuality was not unheard of in ancient China, and the foundational virtue of Confucianism is ren (humanity or benevolence). Instead of fixating on reproduction, sinologist Sam Crane suggested that “what is important is that people perform humanity-creating social responsibilities”.

This approach aligns with the contemporary understanding of marriage – a union of two loving persons. These days, married couples are seen as equal partners in a union in pursuit of conjugal happiness rather than patrilineality.

Third, freedom to practise one’s faith doesn’t mean one can impose one’s beliefs on others. Some Catholic nations have strong protection for LGBT+ people, including same-sex marriage, showing us that religion and LGBT+ equality are compatible with each other.

Fourth, action from the government’s Interdepartmental Working Group on Gender Recognition is long overdue. Almost five years have lapsed since the conclusion of its public consultation exercise.

Fifth, we need to ban conversion therapy, as the world’s leading health bodies have denounced the practice as harmful. According to the Report on Conversion Therapy submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, “such practices constitute an egregious violation of rights”, and when “conducted forcibly, they also represent a breach to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment”.

That said, it is encouraging to see local companies catching up on diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace. A comprehensive implementation of environmental, social and corporate governance practices must include initiatives that support LGBT+ employees. If Hong Kong wants to maintain its status as an international financial centre that attracts the best talent from around the world, we need to get our act together.

Research findings suggest Hong Kong is ready to embrace LGBT+ equality. The government should work with LGBT+ groups to drive positive change in society. Chief Executive-elect John Lee Ka-chiu has promised to start “a new chapter” for the city, and we stand ready to collaborate so that we can make Hong Kong an inclusive place for all.

Jerome Yau, chief executive, Pink Alliance, Hong Kong