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Cathay Pacific’s new LGBT-friendly advertisement. The advert was banned by MTR Corp and Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority joins MTR Corp in reversing ban on Cathay Pacific same-sex ad after LGBT outcry

  • MTR Corp to allow advert of same-sex couple at metro stations
  • Airport Authority quickly follows suit in overturning ban

Hong Kong’s airport operator has followed its railway counterpart in reversing a ban on a Cathay Pacific advertisement featuring a same-sex couple.

The Airport Authority overturned its position on Tuesday, hours after a reversal by the MTR Corporation.

In a statement, the authority, which operates Hong Kong International Airport, said the advert did not breach the company’s “established guidelines”, but refused to disclose that exact criteria.

The authority said it had “informed its agency for handling advertisement applications that the authority deems the visual does not infringe established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal.”

Hong Kong’s railway operator had pulled a U-turn earlier on Tuesday, instructing its French advertising handler, JCDecaux, to reflect its position on equal opportunities and diversity by allowing the same-sex advert to be displayed at metro stations across the city.

In a response to the Post at 3am on Tuesday, the MTR Corp’s advertising handler confirmed the advert could now be displayed at MTR stations.

The reversals came in the face of heated criticism of the ban, and less than 24 hours after the Post revealed that both the railway giant and Hong Kong International Airport had banned the advert because of its same-sex content.

“We have been in contact with the relevant advertising agency and have just confirmed to the agency that the advertisement in question can be displayed at MTR stations,” a JCDecaux spokeswoman said in a statement.

MTR Corp attempts to salvage reputation as shifts blame to agency in face of outrage

The MTR Corp initially deflected the decision to ban the advert back on the French agency, despite JCDecaux following the railway giant’s advertising guidelines. By Monday night, however, it appeared that the rail operator, of which the government is a majority shareholder, had buckled under public criticism by overturning the decision.

The city’s LGBT community had reacted sharply to the ban. An online campaign condemned the MTR Corp and the airport for banning the same-sex advert.

Activists called on Hongkongers to take photos holding a picture of the banned advert at MTR stations and the airport, and to post the photos on social media.


As of Monday evening, the MTR Corp said it “requested the agency to fully consider the corporation’s commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when it considers advertisements in the future”.

The change of policy was later agreed upon.

[The] Airport Authority’s response on this was terrible
Raymond Chan, an openly gay lawmaker

“In the future, we will pay due regard to the MTR Corporation’s commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when handling the placement of advertisement,” the JCDecaux statement said.

Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker, said MTR Corp chairman, Fred Ma Si-hang, called him late on Monday night, signalling that the top management took the matter seriously amid the mounting pressure.

“He told me that MTR has been embracing diversity and that the incident this time was really a decision made by the advertising agency,” Chan said on Tuesday.

“He said the MTR was innocent this time. I told him that the ad agency worked for the MTR and that it was indeed MTR’s business that the agency failed to do its job properly.”

The Equal Opportunities Commission welcomed the decision by the city’s transport operators.
A spokesman for Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, said: “We welcome these decisions and we thank everyone for the support.

“While our current advertisement placement at Hong Kong International Airport and MTR stations will soon come to an end, we are working closely with our production agencies to expedite the display of the said visual.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Airport chiefs lift same-sex ad ban