周五晚的活動將同場免費放映中國紀錄片《Inside The Chinese Closet》，該片展現內地年青同志族群，在面對傳統家庭期望、社會規範及文化包袱下，所承受種種性身份認同的挑戰和困惑，當中也揭示內地極為普及的同妻及契約婚姻的新生社會現象，和隨之而衍生的種種社會問題。
Full Transcript of Brian Leung’s Speech:
Thanks for having me and am honoured to be given the chance to share with you, the great minds and advocates from various Asian Pacific Regions, an overview of the situation regarding advocacy and diversity in HK. The last thing I want to do here is to be naively self-congratulatory on the progress we have achieved and to paint an unrealistically rosy picture. The reality is – it’s far from being rosy. I think it’s far more important that we should be more vigilant about the harsh reality and challenges that lies ahead.
It has been over 25 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in Hong Kong. Today, society has become relatively more open with greater visibility for sexual minorities, as various high-profile public figures have boldly come out in recent years. However, on the legal front of fighting for equal rights and diversity, we barely budged for years. The only advance made was the lowering of the age of consent for sex between two males to 16 in 2014. The High Court struck down the Ordinance as discriminatory and unconstitutional back in 2005. But it took a total of 9 years before the Government finally made an official amendment to the Ordinance. 9 full years!
My NGO, BigLove Alliance, was formed at the start of 2013 calling on the public consultation and introduction of legislation against discrimination for sexual minorities. Despite public outcry and the release of findings in favour of legislation by the city’s Equal Opportunity Commission, the government continues to sweep the impending issue under the rug with the excuse of the lack of public consensus. At the same time, anti-LGBT conservatives continue to instigate discrimination against sexual minorities in the name of defending traditional family values and religious freedom; and to exterminate any proposals on legal protection for same-sex relationships and marriage rights. For instance, in December last year, when HSBC unveiled their rainbow lions in support of the LGBT community, it drew protests from the religious rights and a so-called parent group that are in support of traditional family values.
So, on the front of protecting the equal rights of same sex relationships, HK hasn’t exactly been a beacon. Although same-sex relations are not illegal, same-sex partners aren’t allowed dependent visas to accompany their spouses and their relationships aren’t formally recognized in other ways, such as medical decisions, hospital visitation and inheritance rights etc. Last year, the right for people to claim for the remaining ashes of their same-sex partners was voted down in Legco.
So it comes as quite a welcoming surprise that the High Court recently made a rare ruling that an immigration officer and his husband, who got married in New Zealand, were entitled to the same benefits available to the spouses of heterosexual employees of the civil service. But the ruling was not a total win, as the High Court struck down their entitlement to file tax return as legal spouses, noting that the tax department has defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. But, even though the ruling is not in any way a recognition of gay marriage in HK, it’s definitely an unprecedented judicial recognition of LGBT rights in the city.
It’s not clear yet how the government, a major employer, will handle the court’s decision. There have also been other attempts to expand the rights available to same-sex relationships by turning to Hong Kong courts, but they haven’t been successful. A challenge, called the QT Case, brought by a woman who was denied a visa as the dependent of her partner, with whom she married in a civil partnership in England, was rejected last year. So, we have yet to look for other ways in which Hong Kong law is ripe for further legal challenges.
All in all, reflecting on the past 20 years, the biggest challenge to the development of equality in HK is a systematic one. How can we expect an undemocratic system without sufficient representation of the people to undertake a leading moral responsibility to defend the rights of the minorities? And with the global swing to the right since Brexit and the rise of Trumpism, the road to equality is fraught with uncertainties and challenges. But whatever challenges that lies ahead, equality and human rights, as well as marriage equality (just look at how far Taiwan has come on this front), are irreversible global trends. As we continue to fight this uphill battle, we should keep reminding ourselves – no matter how rough and tough, we are on the right side of history. Thank you!
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