Government taking ‘wrong approach’ over court action in lesbian spousal visa case, equality watchdog says

Peter Reading, the Equal Opportunities Commission’s legal counsel, believes city’s top court will agree with previous ruling

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 11:03pm

The Hong Kong Immigration Department’s decision to take the successful landmark appeal of a lesbian expatriate over the refusal of her spousal visa application to the city’s top court was the “completely wrong approach”, legal counsel for the equality watchdog said on Wednesday.

Peter Reading, the Equal Opportunities Commission’s legal counsel, was responding to the department’s decision to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal after a lower level appeal court ruled unanimously that refusing the expatriate, identified only as QT, a dependency visa, was a form of indirect discrimination.

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A department spokeswoman said: “Having studied the Court of Appeal’s judgment and sought legal advice, the Immigration Department had filed an application for leave to appeal against the judgment.”

But Reading said he believed top court would agreed with the Court of Appeal’s ruling.

He said the government was “taking the completely wrong approach” to keep the case going.

“If you supported equality, you would just implement the decision,” Reading said.

Former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said more court cases were necessary to put pressure on the government to shift its stance on equal rights.

“The court rulings are so important to push the executive branch,” Ho said. “We have to test more cases with the judiciary. It ensures there is concrete change rather than empty words.”

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QT moved to Hong Kong with her partner in 2011 when the latter secured employment in the city, but after being denied residency rights, she decided to lodge a judicial challenge against the government.

In an interview with the Post last month, QT spoke of the uncertainties looming ahead despite her triumph, saying “I still don’t think we have won yet”.

She said if the Immigration Department appealed, her life would still be on hold.

QT is barred from working in Hong Kong as long as she does not hold the spousal visa, an immigration status only granted to heterosexual couples at present.