Hong Kong resident Henry Li Yik-ho is continuing his husband’s fight against the government, taking them to court after it denied him the right to carry out his husband’s final wishes for his funeral arrangements amid a larger fight for gay marriage rights in Hong Kong’s court of law.

Li’s late husband, Edgar Ng, a long term sufferer of depression died in early December 2020 after sending his husband a WhatsApp message requesting to have his ashes scattered at sea before taking his life at home. 

Fighting for rights

Ng was no stranger to standing up to the government and three months prior to his death had succeeded in a case with the high court ruling that same-sex married couples can inherit the estate of their spouse without a will, which the Hong Kong government is appealing. 

He’d also initiated another judicial review proceeding against a rule that prevented him from living with his husband in a government subsidised flat that they had purchased together 12 months after they got married in the UK.

Despite this, Li has been unable to fulfil his late husbands wishes because Hong Kong does not recognise same sex marriages, even those that were officiated in other countries.

Disinvited to funeral

Hong Kong

In fact, because Li’s gay marriage is not recognised under existing laws, he is denied from attending to the administrative arrangements as a next-of-kin without having authorisation from his spouse’s mother, which was initially forthcoming. 

But in the days following her son’s death, Ng’s mother withdrew her support, contacting Li via WhatsApp to advise she had revoked her authorisation for him to deal with Ng’s after-death arrangements and disinviting Li’s family from the funeral mass, effectively removing the right for him to celebrate his husband’s life.

He was also told to return all documents and personal possessions relating to his husband, including Ng’s bank and MPF documents (Hong Kong’s version of Superannuation), identification card, mobile phone, keys and condolence money received at the funeral.

“Edgar’s mother is now demanding that I be excluded from the scattering of Edgar’s ashes, and that I move out from our matrimonial home,”

“[I feel] deeply hurt, but hopeful for justice to be done,” Li said over text message with HKFP. “When your spouse dies, you expect dignity for your spouse and yourself. You expect that you will be allowed and empowered to carry out your duties to your spouse such as identifying their body, arranging their funeral, and arranging their cremation or burial.”

“All of these rights are protected by law but they are denied to married same-sex couples. This kind of discrimination is not acceptable in our society,” he said.

Continuing the fight in the courts 

The government’s refusal to recognise him as the spouse of a deceased person and the decision to bar him from identifying Ng’s body were unconstitutional and contrary to the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, Li’s application to the court stated. He has applied for legal aid.

“Mourning the loss of a spouse is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times in one’s life,” read a statement accompanying the case. “Many same-sex widows and widowers not only lost their loved ones, but they also lost their homes or the opportunity to make after-death arrangements for their loved ones, simply because the law currently does not protect LGBT+ people such as the Applicant. In view of this, the Applicant is filing this judicial review in order to continue his husband’s legacy in pursuing LGBT+ equality in Hong Kong.”

Li has also applied to replace his late husband in the two pending judicial review cases, “as Edgar would have wanted me to,” he said, continuing the fight for gay marriage equality in Hong Kong.

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