Hong Kong transgender people face humiliation from law enforcement officers, says study

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 March, 2015, 12:43am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 March, 2015, 12:43am

The Equal Opportunities Commission is urging law enforcement agencies to ensure officers treat transgender people with respect as pressure groups say encounters with officers often end up becoming "humiliating" experiences.

A survey funded by the commission found that transgender people encountered unpleasant incidents including receiving remarks such as "you do look like a woman", strip searches by officers of a different gender and forced shaving upon entering detention centres.

Transgender interviewees discussed encounters with the police, correctional services and immigration officers.

Conducted by the Transgender Resource Centre from July to November last year, some of the 17 transgender people interviewed in the study said officers even made requests for sex back in the early 1990s, and some transgender people complied in exchange for snacks or to avoid trouble.

The government currently does not allow anyone to change the sex they were registered in at birth unless the individuals concerned has undergone a full sex-change operation.

This policy caused Kaspar Wan, a transgender man who has yet to undergo the final step in sex-change surgery, unwanted trouble when he travelled to South Korea, because the gender on his identity card did not match his declared gender.

Wan was led to a room for further questioning before he was finally allowed to enter the country.

"If any accident happened to me [when travelling abroad], they would have trouble confirming who was missing, and they might never find me. [Immigration departments would ask whether] it was a man or a woman who boarded the plane," Wan said.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is urging the government to consider following overseas practice in issuing certificates to people undergoing gender change, a process which may take years to complete even if surgery is possible.

The commission said frontline law enforcement officers needed specific training on how to address transgender people, ensure officers of the same perceived gender conduct body searches, and an understanding of what medicine and medical services transgender people may require if they are being detained.