Hong Kong legislator hailed for coming out as gay

Newly-elected lawmaker expected to fight for anti-discrimination legislation to protect sexual minorities and to allow gay marriages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:17pm

Gay groups rejoiced after People Power's Raymond Chan Chi-chuen - a newly elected legislator - yesterday confirmed that he is a homosexual.

They expect Chan - better known as "Slow Beat" - to raise the issue of gay rights in the Legislative Council and help to promote anti-discrimination legislation to protect sexual minorities.

"We are all very happy and heartened about the good news," said Rex Yiu, a member of Element, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group. Yiu's friends in the community also expressed their joy at the news.

"In terms of acceptance, Hong Kong society is really backwards when compared with other affluent places such as the US and Europe," said Yiu.

"Finally, Hong Kong has a lawmaker who is willing to admit he is gay. This is really a step forward towards a more open society."

He hoped that Chan, also a television and radio host, could stand up for gay rights and help fight public discrimination.

Chan, who is the first politician in Hong Kong to openly speak about his sexual orientation, admitted the rumours he was gay yesterday following Sunday's election, in which he gained 38,042 votes for a seat in New Territories East.

He said he had not set out to hide the fact that he was homosexual during the election campaign, but he had not wanted to use such a private matter as propaganda.

"It's not a secret at all. I would have told you right away if anyone asked me. But I think if I announced it publicly during the election, it would have blurred the centre of focus.

"I do not feel embarrassed about it, but I will not go and [shout about it to everyone]," Chan said.

"One enters an election because of what he believes in politics, not depending on whether he loves a woman or a man."

He said Hong Kong was still a relatively conservative city and he expected some people might look at him in a negative way. "But I am ready for that. The best way is to face it openly."

He said it had always been in his election platform to push for implementation of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance, which had caused huge public debate when the bill was presented to Legco in 2000. He would also fight for a law amendment to allow gay marriages, but he had no concrete plan yet on when he would start campaigning in these two areas.

"I know it is a hard fight, but someone has to take the first step," he said. Although he thought some People Power supporters might be disappointed, he did not want the public to support him for what he called a personal matter.

Chan said he did not have a partner now but promised to make any romantic relationship public in the future.

In preparing for his four-year term, Chan said he was now busy accepting media interviews and studying the procedures and issues in Legco.

Gay politicians are not unusual elsewhere in the world. One example is Guido Westerwelle, a German liberal politician who has served as foreign minister in the second cabinet of Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel. Westerwelle was also vice-chancellor of Germany from 2009 to last year.

He is the first openly gay person to hold either of those positions.