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.”

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