Support for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong grows as new study shows attitudes to LGBT community are changing in city
University of Hong Kong poll finds 50 per cent of respondents back right of gay couples to wed, while support on other issues hits nearly 80 per cent
Support for legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong jumped 12 per cent over a four-year period, a new poll has shown, while overall support for the LGBT community is also on the rise in the city.
Research from the University of Hong Kong released on Tuesday found 50 per cent of respondents backed allowing same-sex marriage.
The study also uncovered growing support for legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and for the rights of same-sex couples in matters of health and finances.
“Our study shows that support for the rights of same-sex couples has grown markedly over a short period,” said Suen Yiu-tung, an academic from Chinese University who took part in the study.
“A few years’ time has made a significant difference.”
The HKU’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law polled 410 Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above in 2013, and another 1,437 people last year to look at their views on gay rights.
In the first study, only 38 per cent of respondents supported same-sex marriage but this rose to 50 per cent by 2017.
The number of people supporting the introduction of laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation grew from 58 per cent to 69 per cent in four years, while 78 per cent believed same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospital during hours set aside for family visits.
Hongkongers also believe same-sex partners should be able to inherit property from each other, up to 61 per cent, from 55 per cent previously.
Sixty-seven per cent said same-sex couples should be protected from housing discrimination, an increase of 7 per cent. The study also showed 72 per cent believed members of the LGBT community should be able to sue for the wrongful death of their partners, an increase from 65 per cent.
Kelley Loper, the HKU centre’s director, said the study showed there was a discrepancy between the law and public opinion.
“While 69 per cent of Hong Kong people said they favour having a law to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, the government of Hong Kong has yet to enact such legislation,” she noted.
In the report’s conclusion the authors wrote: “Previous research suggests that acceptance of gay people and gay rights has been increasing in most parts of the world: however, the world is also becoming polarised, with acceptance decreasing in certain places.”
The study was released the day before the Court of Final Appeal is expected to hand down a landmark decision on a case regarding a woman seeking a visa for her same-sex partner.
The case centres on the director of immigration’s refusal to grant a British citizen, identified only as QT in court, a dependant visa after she moved to Hong Kong in 2011 with her partner SS, who was offered a job in the city.
Separately, businesswoman Gigi Chao, daughter of real estate tycoon Cecil Chao, said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club last week that the long-standing stigma against gays and lesbians would not go away unless people were more open about talking about sexual diversity.
She made headlines in 2012 when her father offered a HK$500 million (US$63.7 million) reward to any man who would marry her, even though she was already married to her long-time girlfriend. Two years later, the tycoon doubled the offer to HK$1 billion.
“Much of Hong Kong doesn’t know they carry discriminatory attitudes, and calling [one’s different sexual orientation] a tragedy perpetuates guilt and shame in individuals,” she said at a panel on equality in Hong Kong.
Another panellist, author and city resident Nigel Collett, highlighted how labour laws in the city protect workers against discrimination on four grounds, including disability and pregnancy, but not sexual orientation.
This meant that an employer could fire an employee with one month’s notice after finding out they were gay or transgender, he said, adding that social workers, educators and civil servants found it hardest to be open about their sexuality.
Reader response: Why Hong Kong still has a long way to go on LGBT rights