Hong Kong’s MTR Corp and Airport Authority to display Cathay Pacific same-sex ad after LGBT outcry

Reversals came less than 24 hours after advertisement featuring a gay couple holding hands on a beach was banned by the two transport operators

Rhea Mogul |

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

Hong Kong’s railway operator and airport operator will now display a Cathay Pacific advertisement featuring a same-sex couple that was previously banned.

The Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) overturned its position on Tuesday, hours after a reversal by the MTR Corporation. 

In a response to the South China Morning Post at 3am on Tuesday, the MTR Corporation’s advertising handler – French company JCDecaux – said the advert can now be displayed at MTR stations.

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

Dasha Okolovich, a 16-year-old student at Harrow International School Hong Kong, who identifies as bisexual and non-binary, thinks that this is a pleasant turn of events.

“It means that [MTR Corporation and AAHK] trust the Hong Kong public to receive the advert seriously, she says. It gives me hope that Hong Kong companies listen to the public and are more open-minded that we first thought.”

The MTR Corp initially deflected the decision to ban the advert on JCDecaux, the agency that handled the ad on behalf of the railway operator. By Monday night, however, it appeared that the MTR Corp, of which the government is a majority shareholder, had caved 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.

Zachary Perez Jones, a student at South Island School, is also happy that the ad has been approved. MTR and the airport are both prominent transport groups. It's nice to believe that issues regarding LGBT representation will be a thing of the past.

“It is still a bit disappointing that this was allowed to happen in the first place,” the 14-year-old who also identifies as gay said. “All of this would not be allowed if Hong Kong had an anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community. This is something that we need to avoid another scandal like this from happening in the future.”