Several pro-Beijing members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council are once again raising a furore over the upcoming Hong Kong Gay Games in November 2022, the first Gay Games ever to be held in Asia.
Lawmaker Junius Ho, said the Games “on the surface [are] about equal opportunities…about inclusion. But it does not take a genius to figure out it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Other lawmakers have jumped into the fray with the Liberal Party’s Peter Shiu saying, “Hong Kong adopts the one man, one woman marriage system. We can tolerate homosexuality. But we should not promote it.“
In June, Priscilla Leung claimed the Gay Games are “not just a sporting occasion,” but “strongly [promote] the gay movement,” and asserted the Games threatened to “tear society apart.”
Josiah Cho, the chairperson of the Hong Kong Family Watch Association, told the Star Observer the Gay Games should not be given any priority from the government because the Games are specifically focused towards the LGBTQI+ community and as such is a private function. “My concern is that it is a private activity. The government should not step in to indicate their support or not. They should be neutral.”
Support Grows in HK for LGBTQ+ Rights
These arguments run counter to a 2018 report issued by the Center for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, which found over half of Hong Kongers support same-sex marriage. Another study, commissioned in 2019 by the Sexualities Research Programme of the Chinese University in Hong Kong, found 60 percent of Hong Kongers believed that there should be legal protection against discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community. There are currently no laws against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Hong Kong
Lawmaker Ho a strong LGBTQ+ opponent
Junius Ho, in particular, is well known as a firebrand in Hong Kong for his vitriol and contentious brand of politics. His latest comments come on the heels of other negative comments he made about the Games to the LegCo in June. “We respect people with different sexual orientations. Whatever you do in your room, it’s your own business. But if you do it in public, it’s disgraceful,” Ho said.
Ho also argued the Games would bring “dirty money” into Hong Kong. The Games are projected to pump almost HKD 1 billion into the Hong Kong economy, which has been left battered following the pro-democracy protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ho has a long history of employing homophobic rhetoric in LegCo business. In April 2017, Ho said legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong would lead to “bestiality and incest.”
In May 2017 he claimed a ruling which would provide marriage benefits to gay civil servants would lead to “chaos in society,” and in April 2018, he bitterly opposed the appointment of two foreign judges, Brenda Hale and Beverley McLachlin to the Court of Final Appeal because their support of same-sex rights went against “traditional family values.”
Games Organisers Stand Firm Against Critics
The organisers of the Games have refused to bow down to Conservative pressure, with Christof Wittig, the Director of Fundraising and Partnerships, telling the Star Observer, “I think these comments continue to demonstrate why we need the Gay Games, and why we need them in Asia…The Games are about bringing people together, not dividing them, like some individuals are trying to with these attacks.”
“What Hong Kong needs more than ever is unity and this is at the core of everything we do as organizers of the Games,” Wittig said.
Wittig also notes the very public opposition to the Games from Conservatives has actually helped to raise awareness, and much needed support from corporate sponsors. “We have received a huge boost from the recent attacks in the Hong Kong LegCo by these individuals, which were rejected not only from the large majority of lawmakers and the general population and media, but even by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam…Sponsors felt this was a great opportunity to make their brand values shine, when it matters and when history is being made.”
Dennis Philipse, the Founder and Co-chair of the Gay Games 11 Hong Kong told the Star Observer, “While people have different opinions, the purpose of the Games is about unity and harmony, which are universal values that humankind holds dear. We are confident in and remain committed to holding the Games in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong Has Become More Accepting
Philipse points out the Hong Kong “LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress with notable advances in both legal rights and growing public acceptance and support.
It has been 30 years since Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed historic legislation to decriminalize homosexual acts and despite room for improvement when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and protections, public support in 2021 is higher than ever before and trending in the right direction…A number of legal victories have also been achieved in support of Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ movement in areas such as spousal rights.”
Games organizers have “enjoyed tremendous support from various government departments and private venues already,” says Philipse.
While the Games has “made some progress when it comes to securing venues,” Philipse concedes they have some work ahead of them in order to mount the Games as originally envisioned. “We still have a long way to go. For an event of our size and international prominence, we need to confirm venues at least a year ahead. As of August 2021 we have confirmed 21 venues out of the total 56 venues we require.”
Worries Over Political Statements by Athletes
Junius Ho has also claimed that foreigners attending the Games threatened to create “chaos” in Hong Kong and may attempt to make political statements which could be seen as a move against national security. Philipse, however, rejects this assertion.
“The personal health and safety of all participants, spectators and volunteers is our top priority and we have comprehensive systems and processes in place to ensure everyone at the Games feel safe and protected. The Games held in Hong Kong are strictly non-partisan and non-political, and we encourage all participants and visitors to respect and observe local laws and customs during their stay in Hong Kong,” says Philipse.
“Hong Kong’s National Security Law was enacted by the Chinese Central Government in July 2020 to safeguard its sovereignty against foreign interference, and protect against domestic terrorism,” Philipse says.
“Similar laws exist in many western democracies including the United States, United Kingdom, France, and many more. Participants in the Games are guests to Hong Kong and we expect them to show the same respect as they would with visiting any other city or region.”