Same-sex court ruling does not mean we will approve gay marriage in near future, Hong Kong’s leader says

Judgment applied strictly to immigration, Chief Executive Carrie Lam adds, as she challenges openly gay lawmaker to prove city is ready for more change

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 10:48pm

The Hong Kong government has no plans to amend other social policies following a landmark ruling in favour of a same-sex couple’s dependant visa application, the city’s leader has said.

At the closing question and answer session of the Legislative Council on Thursday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said though the government respected the court’s ruling, the QT case was not a challenge to Hong Kong’s Marriage Ordinance and concerned only the city’s immigration policy.

The QT case was launched by a British lesbian who fought to have her civil union recognised in Hong Kong after her partner moved to the city for work. The Court of Final Appeal ruled last week that immigration authorities were required to issue spousal visas to same-sex partners.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong deputy chairman Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, who is also a member of the Executive Council, asked Lam on Thursday whether other policies “such as public housing, welfare, or adoption [would] face similar legal challenges”.

Cheung also questioned whether the case would lead to the government “indirectly” recognising civil unions and same-sex marriages.

Lam said only that the government was studying follow-up actions in compliance with the judgment.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, the only openly gay member of Legco, said the government should take the lead in achieving greater equality, rather than waiting for the court to hand down rulings.

“You can go to the court and [the government] will change a thing following each case lost, not a drip more,” Chan said.

Lam said same-sex marriage was an issue that lacked societal consensus and asked Chan to prove otherwise.

Citing a University of Hong Kong survey, Chan said 70 per cent of Hongkongers supported legislation against sexual discrimination.

Lam was also grilled by HK First legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching on her earlier comment that Beijing’s release of Liu Xia from house arrest was a “humanitarian act”.

Liu, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, was flown to Berlin on Tuesday after being under house arrest in mainland China for eight years.

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Liu was used as a “political pawn” and a “diplomatic favour”, Mo said.

“I meant what I said,” Lam said. “This is just a description of what I saw as an act of humanitarianism … I have nothing more to add.”

Opening the final session before the summer recess, Lam reflected on her first year that included four full sessions and seven 30-minute sessions – a new arrangement introduced after she took office last July.

“When I attend Legco meetings, there isn’t a lot of preparation, as it is hard to guess what questions lawmakers will raise … but the follow-up work is serious,” Lam added.

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Of those issues that she promised to follow up on, Lam vowed: “I will implement them all.”

For instance, Lam said she would make a response to concerns over lift safety in the city before giving her second policy address in October.

The chief executive also thanked lawmakers for attending close to 100 hours of extra meetings for the Finance Committee and its subcommittees.

So far, the panel has approved HK$159.6 billion for 18 construction projects, and Lam said she hoped the figure would reach HK$170 billion in its four remaining meetings.

Looking ahead, Lam said she hoped Legco and the administration could develop mutual trust through more communication.