Deep Dive: Organisers say Hong Kong Gay Games step forward for LGBTQ community, but some let down by lack of support

  • Organised by the LGBTQ community, the Games are an international festival with sports, arts and culture events that are open to everyone
  • Some activists believe the Games were a key milestone in the fight for recognition, though others have expressed disappointment over the level of government backing
Jo Wong |

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The opening ceremony of the Gay Games was held in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai. Photo: Edmond So

Deep Dive delves into hot issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. Our easy-to-read articles provide context to grasp what’s happening, while our questions help you craft informed responses. Check sample answers at the end of the page.

News: How the Gay Games in Hong Kong made ‘history’ and promoted inclusion

  • The Gay Games were held last month for first time in Hong Kong

  • Participants and activists said they were disappointed that there was so little support from the government

The Gay Games Hong Kong was held earlier this month. Organised by the LGBTQ community, it is an international festival with sports, arts and culture events that are open to everyone.

“History is being created today,” top government adviser Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said in a speech at the Gay Games opening ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

But the road to this event has been far from smooth. Many participants and rights activists have expressed disappointment over the level of government support. They say it was very different to how enthusiastic officials were in 2017 when the city won the bid to host the Games.

The pandemic delayed the event by a year and Guadalajara in Mexico was named co-host because of Hong Kong’s tough travel curbs. The committee running the event in Guadalajara received full support from the municipal and state-level governments.

Hong Kong’s first-ever Asian Gay Games postponed to 2023 because of Covid

But the Hong Kong government gave little support for the Gay Games, so the city’s organisers had to rely on private sources of funding and venues.

Only Queen Elizabeth Stadium was available for the opening and closing ceremony, as well as for the martial arts and dodgeball competitions and gala concerts.

Four government bodies – the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Brand Hong Kong, the Tourism Board and InvestHK – are listed as supporting organisations, but the level of backing is unclear.

The EOC said it supported the Games’ “mission to promote equality and inclusion”, but did not provide any “manpower or financial resources”. It did not send any representative to the opening ceremony.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee spoke at the opening ceremony of the Gay Games in Hong Kong. Photo: Edmond So

Still, several veteran LGBTQ activists believe the Games were a key milestone in the fight for recognition.

“We are seeing more people [in Hong Kong] these days have a better understanding of LGBTQ issues ... and the Gay Games are definitely a part of that,” said Jerome Yau, vice-chair of the Pink Alliance, an NGO promoting the dignity, acceptance and equal rights of LGBTQ people in Hong Kong.

Local public relations director David Ko noted the team had less than a year to promote the Games overseas because of the city’s pandemic restrictions, and many athletes from North America chose to join activities in Guadalajara because it was not as far as Hong Kong.

Ko added: “Every single thing that we’ve done in the past seven years has contributed in one way or another to increasing public awareness of diversity and inclusion.”
Staff writers

Question prompts

1. According to News, which of the following describe the goal of the Gay Games?
(1) to promote equality and inclusion
(2) to protest against Hong Kong’s lack of recognition of LGBTQ rights
(3) to increase public awareness of diversity and inclusion

A. (1) and (2) only
B. (1) and (3) only
C. (2) and (3) only
D. all of the above

2. Based on News, list TWO hurdles the Games’ organisers had to overcome.

3. What could the Hong Kong government have done to help the organisers with the Gay Games event?


Question prompts
1. According to the chart, what is the most common issue the LGBTQ community faces in Hong Kong’s sports and fitness industries?
2. To what extent do you agree that the Gay Games helped make the city’s sports and fitness industries more inclusive? Explain using News, Chart and your own knowledge.

Issue: Regina Ip caught in war of words with anti-LGBTQ lawmakers

  • Veteran Hong Kong politician Regina Ip hits back at anti-LGBTQ lawmakers who called for the Gay Games to be cancelled due to national security concerns and because the event could affect how people think about marriage

  • Ip says she does not back same-sex marriage, but still supports the Games as it maintains Hong Kong’s image as an inclusive and free society

Right before the start of the Hong Kong Gay Games, a war of words escalated between veteran politician Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and anti-LGBTQ lawmakers. Ip, a top government adviser, stressed that she had never supported the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

A few days before the Games opened, some lawmakers joined critics in asking for the event’s cancellation on national security grounds and calling for Ip’s resignation because she agreed to officiate the opening ceremony.

Ip had earlier said on social media that a district council election candidate from her New People’s Party was attacked in public over claims the organisation supported the “legal recognition of same-sex marriage”.

“I, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, or the New People’s Party, or any of our candidates, have never advocated ... the legalisation of same-sex marriage,” she said.

This shop is closing, but its dream for LGBTQ+ Hongkongers has only begun

But Ip also reiterated her support for the Games: “But why do I support the Gay Games? Because I am always anti-discrimination and support equal opportunities. We should maintain Hong Kong’s image as an open, inclusive and free society if we want to continue enjoying the distinctive advantages of ‘one country, two systems’, and remain connected to the world while being supported by the motherland.”

She also stressed that the sporting event had not broken the city’s laws. Authorities approved the organisers’ application in 2016 to hold the Games, providing Queen Elizabeth Stadium as a venue.

Seven lawmakers – Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Peter Shiu Ka-fai, Duncan Chiu Tat-kun, Michael Lee Chun-keung, Carmen Kan Wai-mun and Tik Chi-yuen – held a press conference joined by more than a dozen other critics to voice their opposition to the event.

“We object to any Western ideology that sugar-coated its agenda in the name of diversity and inclusivity for a sports event, attempting to subvert national security,” lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said.

The Gay Games dragon boat races at Shing Mun River in Sha Tin. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Separately, lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, expressed concerns the sporting event could affect society’s perception of marriage.

“We respect different sexual orientations and support eliminating discrimination, but these games will inevitably affect society’s perception of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman,” he said.

The Games’ organisers maintained they were not a political group and did not advocate for political changes.

“We are a volunteer-driven group of people whose common goal is to bring about a safe, inclusive and welcoming sports, arts and culture event to Hong Kong,” they said.

“We understand and acknowledge that there are various viewpoints on many social issues. Our focus is solely on promoting inclusivity and unity through sports and culture.”
Staff writers

Question prompts

1. How did some lawmakers and critics respond to the Gay Games?
(1) denounced the Games for harming Hong Kong’s image as an inclusive city
(2) expressed concerns about the Games’ impact on society’s perception of marriage
(3) condemned the Games as a political move to change the city’s social fabric
(4) criticised the event for its support of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hong Kong

A. (1), (2) and (3) only
B. (1), (2) and (4) only
C. (1), (3) and (4) only
D. (2), (3) and (4) only

2. According to Issue, name ONE reason for and ONE reason against Hong Kong officials supporting the Gay Games.

3. How far do you agree that the Gay Games can “maintain Hong Kong’s image as an open, inclusive and free society”? Explain using Issue and your own knowledge.

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Illustration: SCMP

Question prompts

1. What does the rainbow in the illustration represent? Refer to Glossary for your answer.

2. What do you think this illustration is saying about Hong Kong’s sports community?

Explainer: What does it mean to be transgender, and how can you support your trans friends?


  • equal opportunities: refers to the right to be treated without discrimination, especially on the grounds of race, sex, age or disability

  • Gay Games Hong Kong: refers to the XI Gay Games 2023. The international festival happens every four years and welcomes everyone to join regardless of ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or background. It was held in both Hong Kong and Guadalajara, a city in Mexico. In Hong Kong, the event took place between November 4 and 11, marking the first time the event was held in Asia since the event was established in 1982. About 2,400 participants from 45 jurisdictions competed across 18 events, far short of the roughly 15,000 athletes, more than 100 places and 36 sports first envisioned.

  • legalisation of same-sex marriage (in Hong Kong): refers to a law that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry and have the same rights as heterosexual couples. A 2013 decision from the courts excluded same-sex unions from Hong Kong’s legal definition of marriage in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

  • LGBTQ: an acronym for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning) communities. It is meant to represent people with different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. Sometimes LGBTQIA+ is used for other identities that are not described by these names.

  • rainbow: a symbol meant to reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ community

Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination watchdog slams ‘stigmatisation’ of Gay Games

Sample answers

1. B
2. The low level of government support throughout the process and during the Games. / The team had less than a year to promote the Games overseas owing to the city’s pandemic restrictions. / many athletes from North America opted to participate in co-host Guadalajara due to its proximity (any two)
3. The government could have offered manpower support by assigning staff to assist the organisers in planning and managing the event. / There could have also been more public venues like sports centres and sports grounds made available for the event. (any one)

1. Homophobia
2. I agree because if more Hongkongers are exposed to people of different sexualities, it will help them to be more openminded. Hosting the Gay Games in Hong Kong might make people think twice about saying something homophobic or step in if they see someone being bullied because of their sexuality. / I disagree because the lack of larger government support shows that just hosting the Gay Games is not enough to change people’s prejudices. So many people in the LGBTQ community say homophobia is common in the sports and fitness industries – the Gay Games is just one small event. (accept any other reasonable answers)

1. D
2. A reason for supporting the Gay Games because it’s important to maintain Hong Kong’s image as an open, inclusive, and free society. One reason against it is that the Games might affect society’s perception of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, and shake the traditional family values of society (accept all reasonable answers)
3. I completely agree with this statement because the Games can help promote anti-discrimination, equal opportunities, and raising public awareness of LGBTQ issues in the city. The Games provide a platform for athletes and activists to promote LGBTQ rights and create discussions about acceptance and equality. The event also brings together athletes from all over the world. This helps to challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. (accept all reasonable answers)

1. the diversity of LGBTQ people
2. A torch often represents someone leading the way, and it is also a symbol of freedom. This illustration might be emphasising how the Gay Games can lead the way in making Hong Kong a more accepting and free place for LGBTQ athletes. (accept other reasonable answers)

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