January 24, 2007
Hong Kong: Gay activists condemn TV show ruling: Officials accused of stifling public debate on homosexuality
by Albert Wong
The Broadcasting Authority’s labelling of an RTHK television programme on gay marriage as unsuitable for family viewing hours had hindered civic education in Hong Kong, gay groups and civil rights activists said yesterday. In a joint press conference with seven groups, three interviewees from the programme accused the administration of stifling open debate on homosexuality. The accusations came as Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping defended his meeting with Director of Broadcasting Chu Pui-hing on Monday, which had triggered concerns over RTHK’s editorial independence.
"The reason I am handling the case is to ensure that RTHK fulfils the responsibilities that it has undertaken with regard to the relevant codes of practice. There is no question of interfering with RTHK’s programming," Mr Wong said.
Joseph Cho Man-kit, who appeared on the controversial programme, said the government’s criticism of it was a "blatant act of discrimination against different sexual orientation". "The whole point of the programme was to bring a controversial topic out into the public so the public can have a better understanding and learn to be more tolerant." He said the gay community welcomed the programme, especially as those who had yet to "come out" hoped their families would be more accepting after watching it. "The government’s decision is another example of the gradual regression in open debate on these issues."
On Saturday, the authority ruled that a Hong Kong Connection programme broadcast in July between 7.35pm and 8pm was unsuitable for family viewing hours. The programme was "unfair, partial and biased towards homosexuality, and having the effect of promoting the acceptance of homosexhttp://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article-eastasia.asp?parentid=62011ual marriage", the ruling stated. "Young viewers watching the programme might have no knowledge of homosexuality and might be adversely affected by the partial contents of the programme if parental guidance was not provided," it said.
Yesterday, the interviewees urged the authority to rescind its decision. They also submitted comments posted on gay internet message boards. A spokeswoman for RTHK said the broadcaster would take no further action, but added that it was disappointed with the ruling.
June 28, 2007
Update on Gay Venues in Hong Kong
Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Evan Steer and I am one of the Directors of a relatively new (Nov 2006) gay bar here in Hong Kong called Volume. (www.volume.com.hk) I thought I might drop you a message to give your editorial team a little heads up about several new bars and clubs have opened up across town (to burgeoning Noho district) in Hong Kong over the past 12 months thus resulting in the majority of the gay community moving across town.
What is interesting is that the Noho district is becoming somewhat of a gay neighbourhood, a first for China ! These are interesting times indeed over here in Asia as local businesses are finally wising up and not being afraid of healthy competition and realising that locating closer together benefits the entire gay community instead of being spread out with only one gay venue every 10th block or so.
Now, they are growing in numbers along Gough Street on Noho which runs adjacent to nearby Hollywood Rds and Abderdeen St . Gay venues like Volume and our neighbours Mei Lang Fang (AKA ‘Mbar’) and Rice Bar are huddled in a quaint lane-like strip of residential/commercial buildings )offering al fresco dining, designer homeware stores etc) attracting gay renters and generally queerifying the Noho district.
On any given weekend Noho resembles a mini Castro. In all my 7 years of living in Hong Kong (I’m from Sydney originally) I’ve never seen anything like it. This sudden turn around in gay Chinese culture is attracting tourists by the truckload, especially to my venue, thus giving the whole area a very international feel (English is very prevalent on the streets and in the gay venues here).
I think this would be of particular interest to your readers. Due to the shifting nature of the community here, venues like mine are adjusting to the needs of these visitors. Volume, in particular is launching on July 11 a new weekly event- a welcoming party to accomodate the dozens of out-of-towners dropping in to see the new gay Hong Kong for themselves.
The gay-ifyication of Noho has been a recurrent media interest story here in Hong Kong for several months now and I thought you might want to let your readers know about it too. I would also like to discuss perhaps coming up with a special deal for all your readers who visit Volume when they come to Hong Kong- perhaps someone with your marketing team would like to discuss this with me. Before I sign off, I’d like to thank you for your time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Evan Steer Director, Volume
July 17, 2007
Hong Kong top court upholds rejection of public gay sex ban
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal [official backgrounder] Tuesday upheld [judgment] a 2006 lower court ruling that invalidated a law targeting public homosexual sodomy [Crimes Ordinance S.118F(1), text], ruling that the law’s specific focus against homosexual sodomy is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and thereby violates Hong Kong’s Basic Law [text and backgrounder] and the Bill of Rights [text]. The original ruling [judgment], issued last-September by the Court of Appeal for the High Court [official backgrounder], stems from an appeal brought on by two men who admitted violating the law in a private car parked beside a public road. The law was enacted in 1991 when Hong Kong was a British colony, but this is the first time that anyone has been prosecuted under it.
Last September, the Court of Appeal for the High Court upheld [judgment; JURIST report] a 2005 ruling that invalided laws prohibiting homosexual sex [JURIST report], specifically rejecting a law that held that men under 21 who engaged in sodomy could receive a life sentence, while heterosexual and lesbian relationships were legal after the age of 16. AP has more.
Ramon Magsaysay Award recipients announced
by Carlos H. Conde
Manila – Seven people from China, India, South Korea, Nepal and the Philippines will receive this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award, organizers have announced. The awardees include an environmentalist, an AIDS activist, a blind lawyer – all from China – as well as a journalist who writes about India’s rural poor, a South Korean pastor, a Nepalese educator and a former senator from the Philippines. The award, to be given out in Manila on Aug. 31, is named for Ramon Magsaysay, the late Philippine president. Some 256 Asians have received it in various categories since it was established in 1957. Each awardee will receive a certificate, a medallion and an undisclosed cash prize.
"Working in different countries on diverse issues of poverty, prejudice, politics and the planet’s future, these seven individuals nevertheless share an uncommon faith in the tremendous potential of people and social institutions," said Carmencita T. Abella, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, in a statement on Wednesday announcing the list of honorees. The Philippines’s Jovito Salonga, a former senator, will receive the prize for government service. A staunch opponent of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Salonga defended victims of the regime and led efforts to recover its stolen wealth.
The Reverend Kim Sun Tae, from South Korea, will be honored for public service. Orphaned by the Korean War and blinded when he was young, Kim struggled to become a Christian pastor and helped found the Siloam Eye Hospital in Seoul that provides eye services to poor Koreans. More than 20,000 people have received free eye surgery. Mahabir Pun, awardee for community leadership, used wireless technology for the benefit of poor villages in Nepal. After 20 years in the United States, Pun returned to Nepal to help establish schools and, later, with donations of computers and wireless-communications gadgets from all over the world, helped hook these schools and villages to the Internet. Tang Xiyang is recognized with the prize for peace and international understanding. He was known for his "Green Camps," which have helped publicize the degradation of China’s environment. The camps, in which environmentalists and students are dispatched to areas in China where the environment is at risk, have helped influence government policy, according to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.
Palagummi Sainath, a journalist from India, will receive the prize for journalism, literature and creative communication arts. The foundation said Sainath had written passionately about India’s poor and the injustices they suffer. Today, "his journalism workshops occur directly in the villages, where he teaches young protégés to identify and write good stories and to be agents of change," the foundation said. The awardees for emergent leadership are China’s Chen Guangcheng and Chung To. Chen, who is blind, led the filing of a class-action lawsuit in 2004 against officials in rural Shandong Province for, among other complaints, coercing women into having late-term abortions or sterilization. Chen publicized his case, eliciting a backlash from officials that later put him in jail, where he is serving a four-year sentence for "inciting a mob" of supporters. Chung was recognized for his work on behalf of people with HIV. Chung, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the United States, created the Chi Heng Foundation in 1998 to assist gay men in Hong Kong to protect themselves from the virus. He later extended his work to the Chinese mainland, where his AIDS Orphans Project pays for the education of children whose parents have died or are dying of AIDS.
October 17, 2007
Hong Kong gay activist to run for district council member
by News Editor
Despite running unsuccessfully in 2003, gay and civil rights activist Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung will run in the upcoming Yau Tsim Mong District Council Election. Prominent gay and civil rights activist Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung (popularly known as Ken?)will run in the upcoming Yau Tsim Mong District Council Election (Mong Kok South constituency) on Nov 18 after running unsuccessfully in 2003.
Yau Tsim Mong District – comprising Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Mong Kok – is one of the 18 districts of Hong Kong. Each district council has between 11 to 37 elected members. Known for his LGBT, HIV/AIDS and pro-democracy activism work, Cheung is running as a candidate under the League of Social Democrats of which he is a founding member alongside ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung, controversial former radio talk-show host Raymond Wong Yuk-man and lawmaker Albert Chan. He is known to many in the gay community as the co-organiser of the high profile International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) marches and the founder of the 9-year old gay advocacy group Rainbow of Hong Kong which had recently launched a gay social services centre and is involved with the Hong Kong 10 Percent Club, Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong, Nutong Xueshe and Queer Sisters as well as HIV/AIDS advocacy groups Aids Concern and the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation. The 32-year-old is believed to be the youngest committee members of the pro-democratic Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the largest grassroots pro-democracy advocacy group in the territory.
In a translated manifesto posted on the Internet, he wrote: “I have embarked upon my political career with no turning-back. With no regrets, this move signals a shift in the development of my life as an activist, from lesbian and gay groups to political parties and from lesbian and gay movement to the movement for social democracy.” Not everyone has been supportive of his decision to run saying that he should “reconsider at what stage our society is,” implying that society may not be ready for a gay District Council representative. “The cliché that asks me to wait a good timing tells nothing about when it is. Will the good timing come sometime and society automatically progress with the endless deferral of laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination and the urgently needed sexual orientation sensitive education? What we presently need is no more excuses of “not the right timing.” Cheung said in a translated statement posted on the Rainbow of Hong Kong web site.
His full statement can be read in English and Chinese at rainbowhk.org.
Kenneth Cheung is seeking campaign volunteers and donations, and will be meeting supporters on Sun, Oct 21, from 7-10pm at Rainbow of Hong Kong, Community Service Centre, 242 Nathan Road, 7th Floor Unit D, National House, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
October 30, 2007
The Bible Knows Nothing of Homosexual Orientations, says Bishop Gene Robinson
By Nigel Collett
The man at the centre of the storm which is currently tearing apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire – the world’s first openly gay bishop – made a surprise visit to Hong Kong last week.
(This guest column was written by Nigel Collett for Hong Kong’s Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities (www.cr4sd.org), a NGO working for the rights of people who may be disadvantaged by the law, policies and social prejudices in Hong Kong because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual expression. The column is written by founding member Roddy Shaw and various writers.)
Bishop Gene Robinson’s election in 2003 set off the latest round in the struggles being waged inside the Anglican Church (also known widely as the Episcopalian Church) between a coalition of homophobic conservative and fundamentalist clergy and their liberal opponents. It led, in February this year, to an ultimatum being presented to the American province of the Church by the Anglican primates assembled in Tanzania, who called upon their American colleagues to stop appointing openly gay clergy and to cease allowing church blessings of same sex couples on penalty of expulsion from the communion. This lamentable piece of blackmail was committed largely at the urging of a few bigoted African archbishops who claim that homosexuality is a sin and threaten schism, a split in the church, if toleration is shown to it, and who will not even bring themselves to sit in the same room as fellow priests who are gay.
The fall out from this will doubtless cause further conflict at this year’s forthcoming meeting of all Anglican bishops at Lambeth, a gathering to which Bishop Gene Robinson has the sad distinction of being the only bishop in the Communion who has not been issued an invitation. So, in the present circumstances where the Anglican Communion is too riven to have yet established a workable approach to its gay clergy, most Anglicans are either chary of meeting Bishop Robinson or are directly opposed to what he stands for, and it is not surprising that his visit to Hong Kong was not an official one. But enough of a programme had been arranged for him to make a local mark. He had been invited by a group of liberal Christians (the Hong Kong Christian Institute, the Hong Kong Women’s Christian Council and the [interfaith] Spiritual Seekers Society) plus the Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Education, to bring his experiences of fighting homophobia and discrimination to Hong Kong and to meet some of the local gay Christians and hear their stories.
Bishop Gene’s programme kicked off with a public lecture at the City University on Saturday, 20 October, and included a meeting with the congregation of the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship (Hong Kong’s only church ministering specifically for LGBT people) on Oct 21. Later that day, he attended evensong in the Bethanie Chapel in Pok Fu Lam. Aside from this formal programme, it is also understood that Hong Kong’s new Anglican primate, Archbishop Paul Kwong, met Bishop Gene privately, in keeping with the Anglican Church’s policy of listening to the views of its LGBT clergy and laity. The flavour of the short visit became clear at the public lecture, which was introduced by a senior lecturer of the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Religion, Dr Chan Sze-chi, and by an American Anglican priest resident in Hong Kong, Father Frank Alagna. The latter described Bishop Gene as “a lightning rod for some of the most violent and pathologically homophobic reactions” since his election, and said that as a result he was now “an icon for LGBT people around the world.” The Bishop recently made an appearance at number 15 on the top 40 heroes list in the Sept edition of US gay news magazine The Advocate.
The 60-year-old proved to be remarkably steady under the pressure of both this introduction, of his turbulent life and the questions to which he was later exposed by his audience. He spoke movingly of his personal history as a gay man brought up in a conservative southern church, who had abandoned much of his fundamentalist past to become an Episcopalian priest, but had continued for decades to fight his sexuality. After two years in which he underwent psychotherapy twice a week, he had married a girl and gone on to father two daughters, but, after 13 years of marriage, he had found it impossible to deny his real sexuality and had amicably divorced. He had then, almost immediately, met the man who was to become the love of his life and his partner for twenty years until today. He affirmed himself as a ‘practising homosexual’ bishop and thanked God for his life.
Robinson confessed that he had had no idea of the storm he would be raising by his election (which, it is interesting to note, was, in true American fashion, and unlike the rest of the Anglican church, a democratic one by all his fellow clergy and the ordinary people, the lay members of his diocese’s churches. These had come to know him in his 35 years of work in the diocese and had chosen him despite his open gay sexuality). He thought that the furor his election had caused was due to the fact that all churches were now at last having to come to terms with the way science was revealing that there was really no end to the diverse nature of sexuality, and that it really was no longer possible to view the world in terms of the male and female recognised by the Bible. The Bible, he said, “knew nothing of homosexual orientations,” which had only begun to be discussed 120 or so years ago, and so “can’t speak on that issue.” Complicating all the religious arguments, he regretted, was the politicisation of gay issues by the conservative right in the States, which was all too happy to collect votes from fundamentalists by playing the anti-gay card.
The bishop was, despite all his current setbacks, serenely optimistic about the direction that things were heading. God’s last word, he was sure, had not been written when the Bible was completed and what science revealed could not be gone back upon. He felt that the Anglican Communion was involved now in a unique experiment in trying to work out how to live together with such radically different views among its members; they would, he believed, manage eventually to live together with ‘infinite respect.’ The difficulty with which such an outcome would be achieved was illustrated immediately the meeting was thrown open to the floor; among the audience, which numbered around a hundred, were quite a few whose religious persuasion was antithetical to the Bishop’s, and he was faced with what became, at times, some vituperative questioning of his own personal morality and lifestyle. He rose above this and even found it in him to offer God’s blessings to some of those who were in the process of spitting hatred at him, a living proof, and a much needed one, that compromise can be achieved by tolerance and mutual respect.
At the root of his message was his belief in the absolute need for honesty, an issue, of course, which is of clear relevance to the largely closeted society of Hong Kong. “When someone will not acknowledge what I am, that hurts me,” he said. We had to work “to get to the place where we honour the choices other people make.” Justice would be finally achieved when all the civil rights, like marriage, that currently refer only to ‘man’ are held to apply equally to all, irrespective of their differences. And, in a parting shot, he pledged he would be going to the bishops’ conference at Lambeth, whether invited to participate or just to watch from the outside.
Closing the session, Dr Chan Sze-chi made a plea that Hong Kong and China import no more dogmatism from the West. Communism and capitalism had been foreign implants and now there was a threat that ‘evangelical intransigence and intolerance’ would infect a Chinese world in which there had always been a tolerance for sexual divergence. He had seen signs of this in Hong Kong and Singapore, and hoped that China recognised this danger before it was too late. The Bishop’s visit was a welcome breath of liberal air in a country where the fundamentalists seem to make the greatest noise and where the moderate majority of the mainstream churches keep their heads below the parapet. Those who heard him with respect will wish him ‘God speed’ in his visit to Lambeth.
Nigel Collett is an English biographer and businessman living in Hong Kong. Author of several books, including The Butcher of Amritsar, he has written for GMagazine and reviews for the Asian Review of Books. He is a moderator for the Hong Kong Man International Literary Festival.
November 2, 2007
The Art of Kissing
by Alvin Tan
It’s time to pucker up as Fridae’s sexpert, Alvin Tan, parts his lips and shares with readers the sought-after secrets to the art of administering toe-curling kisses.
Have you ever been informed that your kissing style resembles that of a dying pomfret gasping for breath?
Have you been told that you suck at kissing because your mouth-to-mouth maneuvers have the suction power of an Electrolux on Maximum Vacuum setting? Or have you, after a kissing session, realised that your stunned partner appeared to have been set upon and slobbered by a pack of over-friendly Saint Bernards? Well, I’ll just have to take your word for it because I have personally never experienced any of the above scenarios due to my inborn oral sexpertise and my well-moisturised (read: lubricated) lips.
However, since kissing is an essential homo-sex-tivity as well as a crucial ingredient to a satisfying sex life, the powers-that-be at Fridae felt that I should share with readers my secrets of how to become a legendary lip-locker. The importance of kissing and kissing well cannot be over-emphasised. After all, lousy lip-smackers who remain unrepentant often find themselves throwing "Date me! I’m single!" parties week after week. More seriously, according to a recent research in the US, while men think of sex and women think of long-term relationships when kissing, BOTH men AND women agreed that "a bad first kiss can kill a relationship."
To most gay men, kissing is part of foreplay and akin to the "entry examination" to the more "penetrating" sexperiences that follow. So if you fare badly at kissing, your partner will probably think you’ll perform just
as badly in the connubial bedroom. But before you attempt to pucker up, always ensure that you don’t have bad breath by not ingesting culinary culprits such as onions, garlic, semen, chocolate starfishes etc and doing some pre-kissing "freshening up" with Listerine, mints, chewing gum etc.
Avoid smoking heavily or drinking excessively before kissing unless your partner happens to be either a chain smoker or an alcoholic respectively. Trust me, if you kiss him with breath smelling like an open sewer, you can be sure that the action will end right there and then. At this point, I should stress the importance of warming up before planting your lips directly on those of your partner. Never charge at your partner with a gaping hole for a mouth and your tongue flickering about like a thirsty rattle snake. Unless you’re a seductress in the league of Ms Sharon Stone, you should also avoid licking your lips – it’s tacky, it belongs to a porno flick and it makes you look like an underfed and ravenous lioness eyeing a juicy steak.
Begin by gazing into your partner’s eyes and slowly pulling your partner towards you. Take a deep breath (don’t flare your nostrils!) and lean towards him with your lips parted suggestively. As your mouth meets his, make sure you close your eyes. Nothing freaks gay men out more than making out with someone who likes to keep his eyes open when kissing – unless that someone happens to be born without eyelids (freak alert!). Besides, with eyes closed, the both of you would be able to better savour the moment, block out any potential distractions and perhaps mentally play out your private fantasy of you kissing your favourite model/actor/gym instructor/Fridae writer. Once your lips are lustily locked, you may wish to tease your way into his mouth with your tongue and taste your partner. Never shove your tongue down his throat with sudden violence unless you wish to see your partner gag and recoil.
In most cases, it isn’t just your mouth and tongue that are involved while you are kissing someone. You can heighten the pleasure by using the rest of your body to stimulate the erogenous zones of your partner. For instance, to enrich your partner’s enjoyment of your kiss, you could stroke the back of his neck, give his butt a good squeeze or wrap your legs around his waist while he’s standing (not recommended if you are in Reuben Studdard’s weight class). And of course, you should always allow moans of pleasure to escape from your deep throat and engage in some frisky frottaging (also known as dry-humping) by grinding against your partner hard-on on hard-on. (Note: I was also informed that frottaging has become an increasingly popular past time amongst the gay community due to overcrowding in public transport but I digress.)
Moving on, don’t just focus on mouth-to-mouth manaction. Be bold and inventive, and use your mouth all over his body: try little bites on his lips, gentle licks on his neck, light nibbles on his earlobes and nipples, etc, etc. Remember to start with a slow or moderate kissing tempo, gradually increasing the pace and intensity before building up to a climatic crescendo that will leave him open-mouthed, slack-jawed and weak-kneed. (Writer’s note: Excuse me for a minute while I fan my be-reddened cheeks for I am still, despite rumours to the contrary, a modest and virtuous gay man unaccustomed to dirty talk.)
Besides turning up the heat, kissing can also come in handy when you need a time-out from oral and/or anal intercourse and prolong your pre-climax pleasure – especially if you are a ten-strokes-and-shoot type of cocksman. Having said that, I have a personal theory that the way a guy kisses reveals how he is likely to behave in bed. For instance, a hesitant and reserved kisser is more likely to behave like a Frigid Frieda in bed than someone who uses his mouth and tongue in a more "adventurous" manner.
Personal theory aside, I must caution Fridae readers that the verdict is still out on what constitutes an earth-shattering and time-stopping kiss. Some gay men prefer tender, light kisses while others prefer wet kisses with plenty of tongue wrestling. The main thing to remember is to find out (without going into a lengthy critique) what constitutes a turn-on for you and your partner when the two of you kiss, or rather, the type of kisses you would most like to receive from each other.
Still, one thing’s for certain. For most gay men, kissing remains an intensely intimate sexperience which is usually reserved for one’s partner (if you are monogamous) or partners (if you are polygamous). And that perhaps explains why when confronting their philandering partners, the third sentence out of a gay man’s mouth (after "You bastard!" and "Why did you do it?") is usually "Did you kiss him?" – followed by "I’ll do a Lorena Bobbitt and chop off your (censored)!"
15th January 2008
Banks woo gay recruits in Asia
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
While multi-national corporations have been actively recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual staff in the UK for some time, the policy has now been adopted in some Asian nations. The Financial Times reports that American investment bank Lehman Brothers held a recruietment event for LGB students at Hong Kong university and is considering similar events in Singapore. Homosexual relations are legal in Hong Kong. Despite recent debate about the issue in Singapore they remain against the law. Other major institutions such as Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and UBS are also targeting gay graduates in Hong Kong, the FT reports.
Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman Brothers in Tokyo, told the paper: "The way we’re tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we’re a US firm based in New York."
Last year British gay equality organisation Stonewall launched its third annual guide for LGB graduates, Starting Out, sponsored by Credit Suisse. Multi-nationals such as American Express, Abn Amro, Barclays, BP, Citi, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Time Warner and UBS advertised their gay-friendly credentials in an attempt to attract the best talent.
February 7, 2008
Cool reception for Asia’s gay workers
by von Raphael Minder
Homosexual employees face discrimination across most of Asia, but global investment banks are at the forefront of change. The international dimension of investment banking is forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination. Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, recently held an unusual recruitment event at Hong Kong university. Lehman’s invitation was specifically aimed at gay and lesbian students who aspire to be bankers. Encouraged by the success of the presentation and buffet dinner for 50 students, Lehman is planning to extend its initiatives targeting the gay community this year. It will include the bank’s first pro-gay activities in Singapore, the city-state that has become one of Asia’s leading financial centres but where sex between men is illegal. Lehman Brothers is not the only bank seeking to recruit from Asia’s gay community. Such is the enthusiasm among investment banks that some have banded together to give their Asian events a higher profile, taking it in turn to organise lectures, dinners and other events around a gay or lesbian theme. In November, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, Merrill Lynch and UBS co-sponsored a cinema evening in Hong Kong which featured The Bubble, a 2006 film about the gay relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier.
Investment banks’ efforts to recruit more gays and lesbians is partly an attempt to attract the most talented employees. At a time when Asia has become the world’s biggest region for deals such as initial public offering, investment banks are struggling to fill the new positions on offer. And the intense hiring competition makes it crucial to ensure talented gay people are not deterred from applying because of a combination of Asian intolerance and western macho behaviour on trading floors. Cheryl de Souza, Lehman’s Asia director of diversity and inclusion, says: "Walking across some of the floors in Hong Kong, you will find that we now have people who feel comfortable about having a picture of their [same-sex] partner on their desk and that’s huge in terms of progress." Furthermore, banks are increasingly committed to corporate social responsibility and best practice, which also helps explain why some US executives argue that they are ahead of their peers in pushing for sexual diversity. Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman in Tokyo, says: "The way we’re tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we’re a US firm based in New York."
In most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination
What Lehman and some other investment banks are trying to achieve in Singapore and other parts in Asia runs counter to the region’s cultural and legal environment. Homosexual people are broadly accepted in some countries, notably Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong, where gay sex was only decriminalised in 1991. But in most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination and censure – both in and out of the workplace – amid a blend of religious intolerance, family conservatism and legal bans, often inherited directly from British colonial rule. For instance gay sex is a criminal offence across the Indian subcontinent.
In Malaysia, a Muslim country where sodomy is a crime, police in November broke up a gay sex party in a fitness club on Penang and arrested 37 men aged between 20 and 45. The evidence gathered against them included used condoms found on the floor as well as six boxes of new condoms – which in many countries would probably be construed as a sign of responsible sexual behaviour. Richard Welford, a director of CSR Asia, a consultancy focused on corporate social responsibility, says: "In the vast majority of cases in Asia, gays and lesbians have to stay hidden. Sometimes they will even make up boyfriends or girlfriends . . . But it does seem that in some sectors such as investment banking, businesses are taking the lead [in improving the situation for gay people]. You could say that they are ahead of Asian society there."
Investment banks are in a better position to push for change
This has not been the case in Asian retail banking. Unlike retail banks that have countrywide branch networks, investment banks are also in a better position to push for change because they generally operate only in a country’s biggest city, where the population is usually most diverse and conservative attitudes are less entrenched than in second-tier cities and more remote Asian manufacturing centres. The international dimension of investment banking is also forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination more regularly than their counterparts in retail banking and other more local institutions. A recurring problem is the difficulty of getting investment bankers to relocate to countries that do not offer dependent visas for same-sex partners. Still, the jurisprudence governing homosexuality is not necessarily the best guide as to where gay people will find it easiest to work in the Asia-Pacific region, according to some executives who gathered at a recent evening party of Fruits in Suits, an association that holds monthly events in Hong Kong.
Some even contrast life in Sydney, where the Mardi Gras celebration is one of the world’s biggest annual gay events, with the macho working environment within parts of the Australian financial services industry, which one banker says is "a lot behind the curve". India offers another intriguing situation, according to Stephen Golden, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs, who helps co-ordinate the bank’s global leadership and diversity programme. He says: "India is one of those places where the laws relating to homosexuality haven’t changed but society has. We have had employees who are openly gay and have been asked to transfer to India and have gone there without any issues. They understand the cultural environment and have had very good experiences."
"The least diverse office we have in Asia"
On the flip side stands South Korea, where there is no legislation banning gay sex but where gay people say they cannot be open about their sexuality for fear of being treated as social pariahs. Kay McArdle, who heads Goldman’s diversity programme in Asia excluding Japan, describes Seoul as "the least diverse office we have in Asia". Still, she finds reason for optimism in the current staffing problems that Korean firms are confronting. Recognition that there is a dearth of women in the workplace should eventually translate into broader improvements for gay people and others who struggle to gain acceptance in the Korean workplace, she argues. "The Korean government has recently been doing a huge push on getting women back into the workforce as many employers face acute staff shortages." Ms McArdle says. "They are getting up the curve, slowly but surely. And that is good news for diversity in general.
April 12, 2008
Still challenges for Hong Kong gays, But Chinese rule has brought progress and night life is evolving
by Julia Steinecke, Special to the Star
Hong Kong–I arrive at a nondescript commercial building in Causeway Bay and ride up a cramped elevator. Down the corridor, I knock on Door F and when it opens, I’m ushered into another world. The Unique Photo Studio (www.unique-studiohk.com) has racks of lacy white wedding gowns with endless trains. There are silky, red form-fitting dresses and rows of sparkling party shoes. Dashing black tuxedo jackets, in women’s sizes, are matched with small-waisted pants and crisp white dress shirts.
Bun, the co-owner, sits me down and pulls out a photo album. I see a sleek tomboy in a tux with close-cropped hair and a single stud earring. Her girlfriend gazes up with adoration and her loose curls fall onto her wedding gown. Star-crossed lovers pay hundreds of dollars to love freely and extravagantly for a day. It’s the stuff of dreams on this island of laissez-faire capitalism and social restriction. Hong Kong’s LGBT communities have progressed under the past decade of Chinese rule, but there have been challenges. Police still show up on busy nights at gay bars. Recognition of same-sex relationships is not on the agenda. On the bright side, laws that target gay men are being thrown out by the higher courts: the discriminatory age of consent and the ban on sodomy have proven to be in conflict with Hong Kong’s bill of rights.
Families still pressure their children to go straight, but more parents are reaching out to LGBT organizations like the Queer Sisters Hotline, according to Eunice Au. She’s the witty dyke who introduced me to the Sisters last time I was here. Night life is diversifying – small enterprises find creative ways to get around the social restrictions. Eunice takes me to a store called Mercury (www.hkmercury.blogspot.com) where you can rent best-of-the-fest lesbian movies and curl up with your girlfriend in one of their cozy viewing rooms. It’s a brilliant solution for women who live with their families and can’t bring their sweetheart home to watch lesbian tonsil hockey, with grandma in the living room.
Many bars on my Internet printout have closed, often due to skyrocketing rents. The closing of Rice Bar, after nine successful years, is prompting discussions about what’s happening to Hong Kong, and comparisons to the growing scene in Shenzhen, a metropolis of 8 or 9 million across the border in mainland China. Hong Kong men shuffle to Shenzhen for events like the Hot Boyz Party (www.hotboyzparty.com), billed as the biggest gay shindig in China. On Hong Kong Island, an area called NoHo (North of Hollywood Road) has become a gaybourhood of sorts, especially a small lane called Gough St. NoHo caters to a mixed international crowd; more locals go to Causeway Bay and Kowloon. Saunas far outnumber bars in the city, accommodating men who cannot meet in their extended family homes.
Lesbians and bi women also gather in Causeway Bay, where the party goes on all week at Virus (6/F, 468 Jaffe Road, 6180-6255) and the mellow conversations linger at Joca (3/F, 53 Percival Street, 2679-6350). When we arrive at Joca on a Saturday night, I feel like I’m walking into someone’s pleasantly cluttered living room, full of knick-knacks and comfy couches.
The owners inform us that the water has run out today and they can only serve wine. Then a group of seven friends rings the doorbell and comes in carrying water bottles and a birthday cake. They settle around a small table and begin singing “Happy Birthday.”
“They phoned us,” explains the owner. “We ask our customers to phone before they come.” They open Fridays and Saturdays to women only. Trans women are welcome, they affirm, after a thoughtful pause. Eunice says Queer Sisters has been trying to increase trans acceptance in the lesbian community. They also do workshops in schools and community centres. New categories of orientation and gender are appearing.
“Some people tell me, `when I’m with a woman I feel like a lesbian and when I’m with a man I feel like a gay man.’ They say it’s different from bisexuality, it’s about gender,” explains Eunice. Even the butch-femme categories are changing for women. Between the old TB (Tomboy) and TBG (Tomboy’s Girlfriend) there’s a new identity called “Pure,” which came from Taiwan. In Mandarin, they say, “Bu fen.” It’s a bit like TB but also a bit like TBG," says Eunice. “Pure means, `don’t classify me; don’t label me.”’ The boundaries are blurring.
08 May 2008
‘Gay lovers’ programme did not breach broadcasting guidelines, says Hong Kong high court
by News Editor
In its judgement handed down today, the Hong Kong High Court said it disagreed with the Broadcasting Authority’s earlier ruling that a TV programme that discussed same sex marriage was deemed to have breached broadcasting guidelines for not including anti-gay views. The Hong Kong High Court has overturned the Broadcasting Authority’s ruling that Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) had breached the Generic Code governing their operations for not providing an opposite viewpoint when it aired Hong Kong Connection – Gay Loversin which a gay man and a lesbian couple discussed same-sex marriage and the challenges they face. The programme was aired on TVB Jade Channel on Jul 9, 2006.
In Jan 2007, the Broadcasting Authority ruled that the RTHK-produced programme was "unfair, partial and biased towards homosexuality, and having the effect of promoting the acceptance of homosexual marriage.” The judicial review was sought by one of the documentary’s subjects Joseph Cho after the Broadcasting Authority announced its ruling that would in effect require RTHK and all other broadcasters to include the views of the anti-gay lobby in every future documentary programme discussing LGBT issues.
The ruling was a result of complaints from the conservative Christian lobby that had alleged that the programme had discriminated against them by not allowing them to provide a contrary view. According to a news report on RTHK’s website, Justice Michael Hartmann said the authority was discriminatory and had restricted the documentary subjects’ freedom of speech in its decision. He further cited bird flu and child slavery as examples of issues that simply did not have an alternate viewpoint.
22 May 2008
Hong Kong to hold pride march in October, say IDAHO organisers
by Nigel Collett
Instead of a march which has been traditionally held since 2005 to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, a group of mostly straight students marched under the banner ‘Straights for Homos’ last Saturday while IDAHO organisers held a rally in Causeway Bay on Sunday. Hong Kong may not yet have its Pride March, but it has marched for three years running on IDAHO day; last year about 600 marchers went the considerable distance from Causeway Bay to Central to make a collective stand against homophobia. For this year’s IDAHO day, people from some twenty-four groups involved in tongzhi issues in Hong Kong got together in two locations separated by the harbour and spread over two days. Fridae.com was appointed the official gay online media.
This year, the 4th IDAHO celebrated in Hong Kong, was marked in a considerably different way. On the first day, Saturday the 17th, the running (or rather I should say the marching) was organised by a group of mostly straight students who turned out to support their minority fellows. Kowloon was thus privileged to see what we think was its first march in support of tongzhi (literally meaning comrade, the term is frequently used to refer to LGBTs) rights conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Students. Their Social Movement Resources Centre has a group called Autonomous 8A, which decided, under the catchy banner of ‘Straights for Homos’, to show that the morality of the majority in Hong Kong is not at all of the fundamentalist Christian kind. And why the use of the word ‘homos’, not exactly one of the favourite labels on most of our lips? To reclaim it, as ‘queer’ has been reclaimed, from those who use it to foster hatred, according to this group. About 70 of them and their supporters gathered at a public garden in Sham Sui Po, where two leading ‘participants’ in their IDAHO Working Group (they are famously democratic and won’t admit to having leaders), Choi Fung and Dominic Fok, harangued both the marchers and the crowd of rather bemused locals who were sitting about the park eating their lunch or reading their papers in the sunshine.
The march set off down the centre south bound lane of Nathan Rd, in two hours covering the entire length of the road as far as Yau Ma Tei, right through the shopping centre of Mongkok and halting all traffic as it passed. The loudspeakered chants (broadcast to speakers at back and front of the column from a neat mobile electronic platform, pushed down the road on wheels) could not be avoided by the massed crowds of shoppers held back all along Kowloon’s principal thoroughfare behind blue police tape. At the junction with Waterloo Rd, the march halted under a 50-foot poster displayed high above the ground. Placed there by a fundamentalist Christian group, it stated (in Chinese characters) "We want a holy and pure city. We don’t want a city full of sex and erotics;" this advertisement had apparently been put up in several sites in the city following the recent photographic debacle by Edison Chen, but the marchers used it as the key to shouting out to the spectators massed around the junction slogans illustrating the kind of Hong Kong they wanted, one free of discrimination and fear. After some more speeches, the marchers dispersed from the gardens in Temple St.
That evening, the same group arranged a public forum to discuss the plight of tongzhi students at secondary school: could they date, could they be treated as couples, and other similar questions. This debate aimed to mirror one held some 15 years ago on the same subject for straight students in Hong Kong. Straight tongzhi supporters have been making news here in Hong Kong over the last few months. In April, Dr John Green, a straight teacher at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, bravely protested the College’s action in inserting wording into its teachers’ contracts of employment to restrict the benefits given to their married staff to couples who were one man and one woman. Dr Green could not stomach this and resigned. It is good to see that a growing number of the straight majority in Hong Kong is changing its mind and is not afraid to say so.
Those who gathered in Causeway Bay on Sunday, May 18. were this time LGBT men and women protesting their own rights. They numbered some 300, representing almost all the tongzhi groups in Hong Kong. Interestingly, these included several liberal religious bodies, amongst them the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, the Hong Kong Christian Institute and the Spiritual Seekers Society, who led the meeting at one point in singing and in testifying that many Christians support the struggle against discrimination based on gender. For this year’s main IDAHO event extended the usual theme of protest against homophobia to include discrimination against anyone, as the literature put it, ‘not embraced by binary gender concepts’: the transgendered, the transsexual and the cross dressing. The pedestrianised East Point Rd, behind Sogo, was cordoned off for the crowd which gathered in front of the platform and around the large rainbow flag which covered most of the tarmac. On this, many of those present lay down in turn to symbolise the victims of the nine cases read out from the platform of discrimination and oppression, while others around them joined hands.
On the platform, the event’s two presenters, Tom Cat and Ken Chai (Kenneth Cheung Kam Hung, the coordinator of Hong Kong’s Rainbow Centre), led a team of volunteers who read and sang throughout the 2-hour session. At the end of the day, they explained the reason for the lack of an IDAHO march on Hong Kong side this year. Hong Kong will see its first pride march in October, and the IDAHO organisers preferred not to steal the limelight. The anthem written for this year’s IDAHO protest, sung enthusiastically in both Cantonese and English by the crowd, put it clearly: ‘Queer are ready’ (and they really did sing ‘Queer’, rather than ‘Queers’), at the least, for a really massive turnout in October to show what is left of the majority that has yet to face the fact that we are here and that we will no longer tolerate the discrimination of the past. The date or venue of the Pride celebration has not been announced but watch this space for updates.
25 June 2008
Back in business: Hong Kong’s LGBT coordinating body
by Nigel Collett
Hong Kong’s Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting, the coalition representing all Hong Kong’s LGBT groups, has come back to life after a several year hiatus. Nigel Collett finds out the changes that has taken place and what’s next for the coalition.
Several years ago, Hong Kong’s Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM), the coalition representing over 20 of Hong Kong’s LGBT groups, ceased to meet. The reasons for this were several: a lack of sufficient committed members; policy disagreements; some apathy across the community; absence of a unifying cause; all these have been cited from time to time as reasons for the meeting’s demise. Whatever the causes, the resulting absence of a central organisation to coordinate the activities of the many LGBT groups in Hong Kong has long been felt. The community, in the absence of some coordination, has tended to revert to ‘communities’, as the groups diverged down their individual paths, English speakers from Chinese, men from women, the politically committed from the socially driven, the young from the old, and so on and so forth. This has become particularly noticeable this year as the groups organising the LGBT events that have been successfully held in Hong Kong have been criticised for not getting their message out; the events have not brought out as much support as they deserved and might have achieved had they been more widely publicised.
The old TCJM also had organisational problems which prevented its reaching out to all sectors of the LGBT community. This was principally a language issue, as business was conducted in Cantonese and written Chinese, which tended to prevent the expatriate community being involved. Now this has changed. On June 14, a group of representatives of many of the LGBT organisations active in Hong Kong met and agreed to resurrect the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM). They will do so under its old name; Tongzhi is increasingly the locally preferred term for all shade of things ‘queer’, or LGBT; it is much used in China and is seen as having the advantage of avoiding foreign connotations and the growing acronyms and abbreviations of the ever widening queer world. The group will meet bi-monthly and operate bilingually, drawing its information form the organisations represented on it and using their widespread links to get the word out.
The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting includes representatives of as many organisations which were members of the old TCJM as wish to take part. It will be chaired by Reggie Ho, coordinator of Horizons, and so far has representation from AIDS Concern, Amnesty International’s LGBT wing, the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, Fruits in Suits, Horizons, Les Peches, the Ten Percent Club and the Women’s Coalition. The Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, Queer Sisters and others are expected to join soon. Medeleine Mok of Amnesty International has been appointed Information Officer, and the Meeting will be advised by the solicitor Michael Vidler, who won the recent Hong Kong cases involving Billy Leung and Siu Cho. The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting’s aims include linking all the Tongzhi organisations operating in Hong Kong; providing a forum for the discussion of LGBT issues; providing a resource for Tongzhi information and expertise, and a network to acquire and disseminate it; providing a focal point for the Government and other bodies; developing strategies on Tongzhi issues; assisting with and implementing campaigns; and developing public relations campaigns to mobilise the LGBT community and to influence public opinion.
The Meeting represented the LGBT community at the June 20 meeting of the Sexual Minorities Forum (SMF), the Government sponsored body from which the LGBT members walked out in April 2007 over the Government’s inclusion on that body of an ‘ex-gay ministry’ group named New Creation. The SMF has now been removed from responsibility of the Home Affairs Department and placed under the remit of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs. This, coupled with the changing legal situation in Hong Kong following Mr Justice Hartmann’s ruling (in his recent judicial review of the case brought by Siu Cho against the Broadcasting Authority) that all Hong Kong legislation referring to sexuality must be deemed also to refer to sexual orientation, has created a favourable climate to resume open discussions with Government on LGBT issues. The Meeting will also seek to play a role in ensuring that the proposed legislation to cover domestic violence in Hong Kong extends its protection to same sex couples. This legislation is now passing through the Legislative Council and the LGBT community’s views are receiving much support. The TCJM will seek to take advantage of these issues to pursue issues of discrimination in Hong Kong over the medium term.
September 17, 2008
What the recent polls mean for Hong Kong’s LGBT community
by Nigel Collett
Hong Kong went to the polls on Sept 7 to elect its fourth Legislative Council since the handover. Fridae’s Hong Kong correspondent Nigel Collett finds that the political climate may warm – if only slightly – for the LGBT community and highlights the issues that are being watched by LGBT groups in Hong Kong.
Background on Hong Kong’s political system and results of recent elections
Eleven years on from China’s resumption of sovereignty, the Hong Kong legislature remains a strange beast, hobbled into being neither fish nor fowl by the twin desires of the Beijing Government to delay the introduction of one man-one vote democracy (according to a 2007 pronouncement of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, direct elections ‘may be implemented’ in 2017) and the Hong Kong administration to govern without proper legislative oversight. The Legislative Council has 60 members, of which only 30 are as yet elected directly in geographical constituencies, the other 30 being elected within ‘functional constituencies’, which are something akin to medieval trade guilds, groups which exclude much of the population and are arbitrarily formed by economic activity, such as commerce, retail, legal and real estate and construction.
This hang over from British rule has proved very useful to a Hong Kong Government wishing to pack the legislature with its allies, for the majority of those elected in functional constituencies are supporters of the Government and of Beijing. In the current legislature, the Pan Democrats, a loose coalition of nine groups of generally liberal and anti-administration view, won 57.28% of the directly cast votes, and so 19 geographical seats, slightly down on 2004’s result but still ahead of the groups supporting the administration, which polled 41.01% of the vote and won 11 of these seats. The way the system is weighted against the democrats (and currently – so far consistently – against the will of the people) is shown in the final result once the functional constituencies were added: the pro-administration groups now have 35 seats, the Pan democrats 23. This is a system similar to the rotten borough constituencies controlled by a few men in their own interests, which the British reformed as far back as 1832. It is, of course, a model of the sort of system with which the anti-government groups in Thailand are now seeking to mar their own democracy. Not, in short, a system worthy of a free people.
What it means for the LGBT community/cause
All of which dry political stuff would seem to indicate that the chances of reforms passing Legco to benefit the LGBT community are remote. However, this may be something of a misperception. Firstly, it is by no means clear that one may safely assume that every pro-democrat is a social liberal, or that every supporter of the administration is homophobic.
Experience in the legislature in the past, where members have tended to vote on what could be regarded as less crucial social issues more in line with their own views than they would on matters considered vital Government policy, has shown that there can be surprises both ways. Some democrats are swayed by their Christian beliefs. Some members of the major pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB for short) are pragmatists who look at issues on their own merits.
Nelson Wong Sing-chi, for instance, who won a geographical seat for the Democrats in New territories East, was one democrat who seemed to observers to be ambivalent in his views during the election, being noticed apparently supporting at different times both LGBT rights and the position of the rabidly homophobic Society for Truth and Light. The opinions of James To Kun-sun, the democrat elected for Kowloon West, also lead observers to suspect that he is not in favour of LGBT rights. On the other hand, tourism functional constituency member Paul Tse Wai-chun, husband of socialite agony aunt Pamela Pak Wai-kam, is a loose cannon who speaks his mind, often in favour of liberal social views, and is seemingly broad-minded enough to support or at least not oppose pro-LGBT measures.
A few of our opponents have gone; James Tien, Chairman of the Liberal Party, and his Vice Chairman, Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, fell in the electoral destruction that befell their business oriented party this time around. As a result, Selina Chow felt obliged to resign her seat on the Executive Council. We have lost a few friends, too, particularly Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, Vice Chairman of the Civic Party, which did not do as well as hoped in the elections. Fernando was a great supporter of LGBT rights who had been working towards the inclusion of same sex couples in the Domestic Violence Ordinance. But more friends have stayed on; Cyd Ho Sau-lan, founder of the pro-democrat party, The Frontier; ‘Long Hair’ (Leung Kwok-hung); Emily Lau also of The Frontier; and Margaret Ng, representative of the legal functional constituency and the redoubtable champion of the rights of every citizen before the law. All these are all back in the house. Some of those elected this time were also observed making remarks favourable to the LGBT community on the hustings: Albert Chan Wai-yip of the League of Social Democrats and Leung Yiu-chung, of the HK Confederation of Trades Unions, are two that spring to mind.
A very partial and provisional head count shows some 15 possible allies with regards to LGBT issues, up by one or two on the membership of the last legislature.
Issues that are being watched by LGBT groups in Hong Kong
All this means that there is much to play for in the next legislature. The first issue which the community will seek to address is the inclusion of same sex couples in the provisions of the Domestic Violence Ordinance, much debated in Committee in the last session, when the Government was pressed to include an amendment which it recognised was necessary but which it was unwilling to bring to the chamber before the election. With powerful allies like Cyd Ho back in Legco, there are grounds for hope that this measure will succeed this time, and it is one which many LGBT groups in Hong Kong, led by the Women’s Coalition, will be focussing their energies on.
It also remains to clear some legislative baggage left over from the past. The inequalities in the punishment of same sex offenders ruled unconstitutional in Billy Leung’s 2006 age of consent case (Section 118c of the Crimes Ordinance) have not yet been amended in the law; Section 118c remains, unenforceable, on the statute book. A tussle is looming, too, over the provisions of a new measure to register sex offenders, which, in its current form, seems to violate the constitution in similar ways. In the background lurks the overarching issue of legislation to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, an issue which the Government continues to assure the United Nations it is addressing but which it avoids by hiding behind surveys of public opinion and the mounds of hate mail it receives from fundamentalist groups. Whilst Mr Justice Hartman, in his 2008 ruling against the Broadcasting Authority of Hong Kong in the judicial review brought by Siu Cho, made it plain that the law as it stands in Hong Kong encompasses sexual orientation within its provisions against discrimination on sexual grounds, the need remains to provide legislation to protect the LGBT community against specific acts of discrimination. The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting, chaired by Reggie Ho, will be looking at ways to take this issue forward in the next session, and will be assembling evidence of real discrimination to change the minds of those legislators so far un-persuaded of the need for this legislation.
As it will of the lingering sore which is the presence of fundamentalist Christian homophobes on the Government’s LGBT consultative body, the Sexual Minorities Forum. The Government’s invitation to the New Creation Association, a peddler of ‘reparative therapy’, to sit on the Forum (on the grounds that it ‘represented’ a minority of a minority who were gay but didn’t want to be) led to a walkout of the LGBT members in 2007. These are now back on the Forum, having registered (and intending to continue to register) complaints about the presence of the opponents of the community. Horizons has taken one step forward in this campaign by initiating a formal complaint to the Medical Council about the activities in Hong Kong of the ‘reparative therapists’.
It looks like the next Legco session will be one of interest to us all. And to start all this off with a bang, Hong Kong’s Gay Pride march is now planned for Dec 13 this year. Keep the date free in your diary and dust off your marching shoes!
September 17, 2008
Gays warned HIV rise may hit Bangkok levels, HIV rates among homosexuals in Hong Kong may reach Thai levels by 2020, a government doctor has warned.
by Timothy Chui
HIV rates among homosexuals in Hong Kong may reach Thai levels by 2020, a government doctor has warned. "In Bangkok, one in three gay men are HIV positive at present," Centre for Health Protection senior medical officer Raymond Ho Lei-ming said yesterday. "In addition a number of western European cities are seeing double-digit prevalence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men." Ho also said prevention and condom usage needs to be stepped up and that people at risk should seek testing.
Long the epicenter of sexually transmitted diseases in Southeast Asia, vigorous condom, education and anti-viral campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s saw the Thai infection rate drop from 2 percent to just under 1.5. According to the 2008 United Nations acquired immune deficiency report, the current Thai infection rate is 1.4 percent with about 610,000 of its 65 million population living with HIV. AIDS deaths in 2007 were estimated at 31,000. The center said it had received 121 reports of HIV infection during this year’s second quarter, bringing the territory’s cumulative number of reported HIV infection to 3,822 since record keeping started in 1984.
According to Ho, 98 of the new cases were male and 23 female, while 33 were infected through heterosexual contact, 33 through homosexual or bisexual contact, nine from shared needles and two from blood transfusions. The vector of infection for 44 was undetermined due to insufficient data. Fifteen AIDS cases were reported during the same quarter, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 966. Ho said 65 of the new cases were already seeking treatment, adding half the remaining HIV-infected people could progress to AIDS within a decade if they went without treatment.
The chest infection pneumocystis pneumonia and mycobacterium tuberculosis were the most common AIDS-defining illnesses in the second quarter, Ho said. AIDS Concern chief executive Loretta Wong Wai-kwan said the number of clinics providing care for people living with HIV and AIDS has remained unchanged in a decade.
October 20, 2008
HIV Increasing Among MSM in Hong Kong; Researchers Call for Improved Prevention Efforts
The number of new HIV cases recorded among men who have sex with men in Hong Kong has increased every year since 2003, and up to one-third of the population could be HIV-positive by 2020 if prevention programs are not effective, researchers said recently, Reuters reports. The number of newly recorded annual HIV cases among MSM increased from 50 in 2003 to 67 in 2004, 96 in 2005 and 112 in 2006. The number of newly recorded annual HIV cases among heterosexuals stayed within the range of 110 to 116 each year, according to Reuters.
"If all our actions fail by 2020, we can have one-third infected in the community," Wong Ka-hing of the government’s Centre for Health Protection said, adding, "Some of them may go on to infect women." According to Reuters, 4% of MSM in Hong Kong are HIV-positive, and genetic analyses of HIV samples indicate that three strains are circulating in the local community. "There are three clusters (of people infected by the three strains)," Wong said, adding that researchers "investigated and found common risk factors like a number of people attending the same sex parties, Internet use (to search for sex partners), using recreational drugs, unsafe sex" and sexually transmitted infections. According to Wong, "Not many people (in this community) think safe sex is important." He added that condom use among MSM — recorded at 70% with casual partners and 40% with regular partners — is lower than among heterosexual men in certain circumstances. Condom use among heterosexual men is recorded at between 80% to 90% with commercial sex workers, Wong said.
Chen Zhiwei, director of the AIDS Institute, said that faster testing is needed to curb the spread of HIV. Most HIV tests used in Hong Kong search for HIV antibodies, and Chen said that these tests can miss newly infected cases because the body does not produce antibodies until two weeks to a few months after transmission. "Early diagnosis is very important," Chen said, adding, "We need to identify newly infected cases, especially among people who are sexually active. Immediately after infection, the viral load is very high, so the chance of transmitting to others is very high." Chen also said that polymerase chain reaction tests, which can detect HIV in the blood, should be used to detect recent infections (Ee Lyn, Reuters, 10/17).
A Gay-Pride Revolution in Hong Kong
by Deena Guzder and Ann Binlot, Hong Kong
There were no drag queens in sexy ensembles with heavy makeup strutting down the streets in platform heels or buff shirtless sailor boys splayed like starfish on moving floats. But Hong Kong’s first official gay-pride parade Saturday was still a colorful gathering; in fact, for a country that rarely acknowledges homosexuality, let alone celebrates it, it was downright revolutionary.
For a few hours, a city that usually seems immune to surprises watched in awe as approximately 1,000 paradegoers stopped traffic, filled the streets and spread their message to “celebrate love.” A rainbow-colored dragon bobbed over the heads of carefully coiffed men donning dainty dresses and dancing to “Celebrate Pride,” which warbled through a loudspeaker in the center of the city. Men with fiery red-feathered tiaras chanted, “Pride parade! Pride parade! Pride parade!” in Cantonese and English while marching through Hong Kong’s congested Hennessy Road waving multicolored pride flags. (See TIME’s top 10 pictures of 2008.)
Although Hong Kong has held several small demonstrations against homophobia, this was the first parade solely dedicated to celebrating queer identity. “We came out today to show the world that people in the queer community are normal people too,” said Ariel Wong, a 21-year-old student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University who wore a rainbow Afro wig and distributed stickers with pink hearts on them. The parade was co-organized by Rainbow of Hong Kong,
Midnight Blue, Social Movement Resource Centre and the Women Coalition, with support from groups working on myriad issues, including civil rights, HIV/AIDS education and transgender awareness. It represented progress for China’s gay community, marking the first large-scale event of its kind in any major Chinese city (only Taipei has hosted similar events). Antonio Licon, a Web designer for Hong Kong Magazine who grew up in Hawaii, said, “I think socially there are a lot of pressures in Hong Kong to conform to expectations and not disappoint parents.”
December 15, 2008
1,200 march at Hong Kong’s first official gay pride parade
by Nigel Collett
Although the Dykes on Bikes had to leave their machines at home and the event had to do without a double-decker bus organisers intended to rent, some 1,200 people turned out for Hong Kong’s first official gay-pride parade on Saturday. At last it has happened. Hong Kong’s first gay pride parade processed through the crowded streets of Hong Kong Island on the afternoon of Saturday 13 December. And it was a huge success. Some 1,200 men and women, young and old, mostly gay but with some straight friends too, marched for just under two hours from the assembly point outside the Causeway Bay MTR entrance in Great George Street, one of the most congested places on the face of the planet, straight along the major East-West thoroughfare of Hennessy Road to its final destination in the public Southern Playground near Wanchai’s station.
While Hong Kong has held three annual marches since 2005 to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), this was the first official gay pride parade. Banners and flags marked the different groups who took part, making the half kilometre length of the march a rainbow coloured ribbon threading its way down a main street packed with shoppers and passersby. The mood of the march was joyous, everyone chanting slogans of love and equality to the beating of drums and the applause and waves of many onlookers and the crowds that thronged the bridges crossing the road to get a glimpse of a sight never before seen in Hong Kong. The passengers of passing trams joined in with waves, cheers and shouted greetings. Though there were some bemused and indifferent faces in the crowd there were no anti-gay protesters to spoil this very happy day.
The march was all on foot. Hong Kong’s police, out in force and doing a very careful job of ensuring no one got knocked down by the still passing streams of buses and cars, had ruled, sadly, that Dykes on Bikes had to leave their machines at home. The only other vehicle organisers planned to have at the parade was a bus, both to be a focus for the parade and to provide a platform for its PA system and music. The bus didn’t materialise. Citybus, the company that organisers approached to rent a double-decker, informed them several days before the parade that they are unwilling to rent them a bus. According to local media reports, the bus company reportedly said that although a bus was available, they considered various factors, including the "image of our company" when they refused the booking.
It was too late to rent another one, so everybody ended up walking and the kit went in a van, but it was not too late for a demonstration to be organised several days before the Parade outside the Citybus offices, where the company was called upon to account for what seemed to all concerned a blatant case of discrimination. This issue will not be forgotten and the Hong Kong Government has already taken the step of asking the company for an explanation.
At the Parade’s destination a large platform had been erected in the sports ground and a programme of celebration was performed by the groups involved in the Parade to entertain the marchers and the public in the park. There were too many organisations represented in the 30 member Pride committee to list them all here, but the four principal ones coordinating the day were the Women’s Coalition of the HKSAR; Rainbow of Hong Kong; Midnight Blue, the Hong Kong organisation reaching out to male sex workers; and the Social Movement Resource Centre Autonomous 8A, which had organised the highly successful ‘Straights for Gays’ march in Kowloon around the time of IDAHO earlier in the year. All these led the marchers in a declaration and pledge based upon the Pride Parade’s theme of ‘Celebrate Love’.
Midnight Blue’s contingent, dressed in traditional costumes, showed off their Chinese Zang dancing skills. One of their leading members, Wai, who marched through the streets with his fellows in a police uniform just enough unlike the Chinese or Hong Kong Police’s uniform to prevent his arrest for impersonation, and was a key figure in putting together the Parade’s administrative back up, told me that he ‘wished to show Hong Kong a happy celebration of what tongzhi(meaning comrade in Chinese but commonly used to refer to lesbians and gay men) meant’ and hoped that the event would develop in future more and more into the kind of street party enjoyed in other major cities. He and similarly clad fellow members of Midnight Blue did their best to make this happen this time by divesting themselves of their uniforms in a Hong Kong version of ‘The Full Monty’ on stage. Bryan Chan, of Hong Kong’s Dimsum Magazine (who has been known just occasionally to be seen in drag at tongzhi events), appeared this time as the glamorous ‘Coco’, but kept his clothes on, his sparkling bodice, plumed headdress and tight boots being far too splendid and difficult to remove. He belted out some old favourites from Anita Mui and Paula Tsui. No lip synching here!
Connie Chan, leading member of the Women’s Coalition, and one of the Parade’s coordinators, told me that she was ecstatic about the turnout. She said that the committee had planned initially for 250 people (this was, after all, the first Pride Parade in a city where it is still not easy to come out and where most find it more than hard to tell their parents, let alone to be open to their employers, about their sexual orientation). But this had rapidly become 500 then 1,000, and the numbers who came to march exceeded everyone’s dreams. Hong Kong was helped out by contingents from other Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yunnan and Gweizhou, all of which marched under identifying banners. Representatives from Taiwan also marched. From the platform, they all said they hoped to be able to repeat Hong Kong’s success with Pride Parades of their own one day.
Two events completed the Pride programme. That night, just off Lang Kwai Fong in Central, at the newly opened bar Does Your Mother Know, a large number of those whose mothers did, and many whose mothers probably didn’t, celebrated the day’s triumph with an After Parade Party. Joint party organisers Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni, coordinators of the lesbian social salon Les Peches, told me that while the numbers of people at this first Pride were not so important as the fact of its being held at all, they were delighted that so many had had the courage to turn out. Eric Herrera of Fruits in Suits, the Hong Kong gay social network, and their fellow party host, echoed this and said that their party, a fundraiser for the parade, hoped to pay over HK$20,000 (US$2,580) to its funds, and was intended to end a happy day with a bang. Which it truly did.
On Sunday, 13 December, an event was held at Hong Kong’s Baptist University to share the lessons of the Parade and to hold an open forum on many LGBT issues similarly affecting China, Hong Kong and Taiwan; living with AIDS, family relationships, civil rights and the use of the legal system in achieving them. The Baptist University is no stranger to hosting tongzhi events; Ken Zai, Rainbow Hong Kong’s founder and leading member and a key figure in the organisation of the Pride Parade, had appeared here the week before to celebrate his organisation’s 10th anniversary with a musical concert at which he personally performed a medley of popular songs, as he did again after the Parade in Southern Park. Whilst the 30-member committee that organised the Pride Parade will dissolve after its conclusion, it will, in some form, re-assemble next year to plan 2009’s Pride. The intention is make Hong Kong’s Pride bigger and better as the years go by.