January 15, 2009 – DailyQueerNews.com
Hong Kong Activist and Christian Legislators Clash Over Inclusion of Same-Sex Cohabitants Under Domestic Violence Law
by Daily Queer News…Fridae
A government proposal to include same sex cohabitants to be covered under the Domestic Violence Law has attracted fierce opposition from Christian legislators, Hong Kong’s Catholic Church and Christian organisations.
Speaking at a public hearing of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services on Saturday, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung reiterated that the proposal was “only relevant to the policy area of domestic violence, and it enables same-sex cohabitants to apply under the ordinance to the court for an injunction order against molestation by their cohabiting partners.” He stressed that the inclusion is to provide civil remedies to the victims concerned and does not confer any legal status to same-sex relationships.His comments come as Christian groups and Christian legislators made known his opposition to the bill in recent weeks.
Although the Democratic Party had pledged in the legislature election last September that all their legislators would vote in favour of the bill, Wong Sing-chi, a Protestant legislator, has publicly opposed the bill. Himself and several other Catholic and Protestant legislators of the Democratic Party have also asked to be exempted from voting for the current bill.
Wong said in a radio interview on Jan 3 that although he does not oppose giving protection to same-sex couples, he objects to using the word “family” in the Chinese version of the law as it might lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriage. He suggested using “home” or “household” instead of “family.”
His suggestion has been rejected by the government countering that the scope of “household” is too broad given that violence involving some people living under the same roof, such as between landlords and tenants, has never been regarded as domestic violence.
13 January 2009 – Fridae.com
by Nigel Collett
With the rise of Asian queer studies as an academic field of study in its own right, a new Queer Asia book series has been launched by the Hong Kong University Press with the first volume Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong by Helen Hok-Sze Leung now on sale.
Note: Readers unfamiliar with this burgeoning academic genre may wish to note here that ‘queer theory’ had its roots in earlier studies into homosexual politics, writing and history, and has sought to reclaim the previously pejorative term for homosexual, ‘queer’, a word now used by some to encompass the still growing number of groups of the sexually diverse, groups otherwise subsumed under the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual).
Back in July 2005, the 1st International Conference of Asia Queer Studies, ‘Sexualities, Genders and Rights in Asia’, was held in the Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok. The group of academics who organised the event came from Thailand, Australia and the United Kingdom. They aimed at creating a focus for Asian queer studies (the academic field embracing anything LGBT as well, nowadays, as almost anything on society’s cultural margins) that was as free as possible from the western biases that heavily influence current theory. Encouraged by the success of the conference, two of these, Peter Jackson of the Australian National University, an expert on Thai sexualities, and Chris Berry of Goldsmiths College, the University of London, whose interest is in film, decided to capitalise on the wide interest in the subject the conference had exposed by creating a book series of their own. They enlisted an ‘Editorial Collective’, a group of four academics, distinguished in their own fields and interested in examining issues in Asian gender and sexuality. The other two were John Nguyet Erni, a professor in cultural studies at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, and Helen Leung Hok-sze, a professor in women’s studies at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
At that time, there was no publisher in the region taking an active interest in queer studies. Occasional works had been, and still are, published in many countries, but so far no university department had become strong or independent enough to generate the amount of sales needed to support a series of books in their own university press. Commercial publishers in the Asian English reading world were similarly unable to justify the expense of a series that might have been seen to be too academic for the general reader. A more developed market, both academic and commercial, did exist in Taiwan, but there works were mostly published in Chinese, and this series was intended to bring Asian queer issues to the wider English-reading world.
Fortuitously, in 2000 Hong Kong University Press had acquired a new Publisher, Colin Day, whose arrival had prompted a revival in the fortunes of what had hitherto been a quiet and conservative local publisher. In comparison with the total of 20 volumes he found the Press publishing every year when he arrived, Colin lifted annual title output to nearly 50 books a year in 2007 and 2008. He was interested in building up themed series on cultural studies subjects; he had found, for instance, great success with The New Hong Kong Cinema series he began to commission in 2002. The freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong and its solid academic reputation also made the city an ideal centre for academic innovation. Jackson and Berry approached the Press, Colin Day was excited by their ideas and, with some skilled advocacy from all concerned, the nine member Faculty Press Committee that governs the Press, persuaded that this was a strategic investment, voted to take this leap of faith.
The Press brought in Michael Duckworth from the States in January 2008 and tasked him with publishing the series. Mike had 13 years’ experience at Washington Press in Seattle, where he had published Gary Atkins’s books Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging and had watched the American culture wars played out locally as the local gay hero, Cal Anderson, a Harvey Milk-like figure who achieved success as an openly gay legislator, battled the forces of reaction summonsed up by the locally very powerful Roman Catholic Church. Meanwhile, the new four person editorial collective worked to assemble a hugely impressive international editorial board of 18 academics with an interest in queer studies working in universities as wide apart as both coasts of the United States, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Lingnan University in Hong Kong (a university specifically dedicated to fostering the liberal arts in both theoretical and practical ways). None, alas, were found from Singapore.
The four editors agreed that each of them would lead as series editor for a year. Chris Berry took the series up to launch and Helen Leung followed up for the next year, 2008-9.
In June 2008, Hong Kong University Press kicked off the series with a public launch at the University and, a few months later, with the issue of the first book of the series, Helen Leung’s Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong (originally a project of the University of British Columbia Press). This swiftly earned good reviews. The book looks at the changing views of gender and sexuality in Hong Kong cinema, in greater depth at the more obvious candidates for research in this area, such as the director Stanley Kwan and the acting megastar Leslie Cheung, but also, in less detail, in the less likely areas of mainstream cinema, such as Hong Kong’s favoured ghost stories and crime classics like Infernal Affairs.
Titles planned for the series in 2009 include Cleveland State University historian Kang Wenqing’s book on male same-sex relations in China, 1900-1950, due out in the spring; an updated reprint with the University of the Philippines Press of Neil Garcia’s 1996 classic Philippine Gay Culture, a book that won a National Book Award; and an edited volume of Yau Ching’s essays, As Normal as Possible: Negotiating Sexualities in Hong Kong and China (Yau Ching is a well known activist on the Hong Kong tongzhi scene and an academic at Lingnan University). Later volumes will include works by Lucetta Kam (of the Chinese University of Hong Kong) on lesbians in Shanghai; by Denise Tang Tse Shang (of Taipei) on Hong Kong lesbian culture; by Hans Huang (also of Taiwan) on the phenomena surrounding Taiwan’s famous Crystal Boys; by Chris Berry on the classic Chinese gay film Lan Yu (in a book which is likely to come out in Hong Kong University Press’s New Hong Kong Cinema series); and by the Dutch academic Saskia Wieringa on comparative gender roles in Indonesia. Also planned is a multi-author volume on queer Bangkok and an updated re-issue of Peter Jackson’s Letters to Uncle Go, his renowned study of the gay advice column which first created mass awareness of LGBT issues to Thailand. Fridae.com will be reviewing these as they appear.
That will leave but one of the four founders unpublished in the series thus far, and John Erni intends to complete the score card with a book he is writing now on the relevance to queer studies of human rights law, NGOs and the media. John was educated in literature and cultural studies in the States, where he became a member of ACTUP and worked as an AIDS activist. These experiences led to his 1994 book Unstable Frontiers, which established the seemingly illogical idea that hope of, and activist struggle for, a treatment for HIV actually created that treatment; John saw that political, activist and academic pressure was the stimulus behind the eventual concentration of medical resources leading to the cocktail therapies existing today. His experiences in the States and in Hong Kong, where he was previously involved in AIDS Concern and has now started to teach a combined course of human rights law and cultural studies, have led him to believe that the Queer Asia series may stimulate unforeseen developments, and not just in Asia’s academic world. John has seen a growth of interest in queer theory in Asia and a steadily increasing trickle of PhDs in related topics, a trend so far unsupported by knowledge or academic resources. Queer Asia, he thinks, will harness these energies and will, he hopes, cover many of the blind spots that currently hamper the discourse.
In a region where LGBT political activism often lags behind the progress being made in the law, the arts and the academic world, the emergence of the Queer Asia series is a welcome development. The series does not set out to provide a full coverage, either of all aspects of such a varied subject or of the entire continent (South Asia, for instance, is at the moment a space on the map waiting to be filled and the Middle East and Central Asia are only a twinkle in the editorial collective’s eyes). Yet with the wide scope of its already planned subject matter and its potential for growth, it is certain that the series will provide a good deal of the hard facts and nuanced arguments that the LGBT movements in Asia will need to fight for human rights and for full inclusion in society over the next decade.
Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong can be purchased on the HKU Press website and in shops. Hong Kong: Page One, Dymocks Hopewell Centre Wanchai, and a few campus bookshops including HKU, CUHK, Baptist University, Poly University. Singapore: Kinokuniya and Select Books. Taiwan: San Min Books and at the Taipei Book Fair in Feb 2009.
16 February 2009 – Fridae.com
700 march in Hong Kong to protect civil rights from Christian right
by Nigel Collett
Something unique and very new emerged onto Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday, Feb 15, an organised and vocal answer to the fundamentalist Christian right. Nigel Collett reports. A brand new civil rights organisation calling itself the Civic Movement Network (CMN) has exploded onto Hong Kong’s moribund human rights scene in the space of about a month, showing its strength (and reminding those of us who needed it of the power of the net) with a march through the streets of Kowloon.
From its Facebook group which was launched only in January this year, the CMN has already grown to a strength of over 2,000 net members. Between 700 and 800 people turned out onto the streets of Kowloon to march all the way from Lai Chi Kok’s MTR Station down the Cheung Sha Wan Road to Prince Edward. They marched, they said, ‘to show their belief in a broad and open civic society and to fight the closed and insular society ruled by intolerance, misinformation and bigotry which the Christian right is seeking to impose on Hong Kong.’
A mere four weeks ago, Alva (Alliber) Chun, a Form 7 A-Level student and Mensa member, found himself so angered by the bullying behaviour of the religious right, and the misrepresentations they made in their campaign against the extension of the Domestic Violence Ordinance (DVO) to same sex couples, that he decided something had to be done. Determined to fight for the civic values in which he believed, he formed a Facebook group to gather like minded people and drafted its mission statement, which is:
"We call ourselves ‘The Civic Movement Network.’ We come from many walks of life including students, professionals, teachers and parents. Some of us believe in religion, others do not, but despite our differences we share a common belief. Together, we treasure the core values of our civic society – equality, human rights, democracy, rule of law, mutual dialogue, rational debate, tolerance, free and independent thinking, pluralism, transparent governance, care and concern for minorities and under-privileged groups, respect for an individual’s rights and freedom to choose their lifestyles in pursuit of their happiness as long as others are not harmed."
Since 2005, when the Hong Kong Government first started half-heartedly to consult the public over a bill to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the Christian right has been making itself felt in Hong Kong. Over the last year, Hong Kong has seen a gradual increase in the activities of the Christian fundamentalist right. Advertisements placed at huge cost in Chinese newspapers abusing LGBT people; even more costly billboard posters on prominent street corners or tunnel entrances calling for conservative family values; letters to the press opposing extensions to human rights legislation and advocating an end to abortion; a deluge of letters sent to Government departments; vitriolic, intolerant and derogatory discussion of LGBT people at the Legislative Council (Legco) Committee considering changes to the Domestic Violence Ordinance (DVO), all these public activities were bad enough. But it has become very plain that the Christian right’s activities have become more insidious in their threat to civic values. They have metamorphosed the small number of their publicly recognised organisations into a plethora of groups with the same aims and policies, all of which demand equal time and equal weight in public deliberations. This resulted in the hijacking of the Legco DVO committee sessions in January this year. They have leveraged their small numbers using the influential positions they hold in Hong Kong’s education and social services.
Historically, Hong Kong’s Government has delegated many of its education and social functions to Christian missionary organisations, and these now play a very vital part in Hong Kong’s life. It is not possible for many parents to avoid sending their children to Christian schools, and many social services offered to the poorer members of society are channelled through Christian hands. Whilst these are not all fundamentalist hands, many are, and at least some of these fundamentalists use their positions to proselytise and to further their conservative social views. Two recent examples of this tendency which have made Chun and his supporters anxious were, firstly, the campaign by fundamentalist teachers to instigate the sending of identical letters to Government departments and the Legco DVO Committee and, secondly, attempts to foist creationism onto the Hong Kong Secondary School Syllabus.
For some time fundamentalists inside the education system have taken advantage of the ‘moral education’ element in the curriculum to advocate conservative social views and in particular to abuse lesbians and gays. Their campaign against extending the DVO called forth a blizzard of letters against extending rights to same sex couples, letters issued by teachers to pupils for they themselves or for their parents to send. These letters were so suspiciously like official school letters that parents were led to believe that they had been asked to do this by their children’s schools. In some schools, it is already clear that some teachers are teaching creationism and ‘intelligent design’ as acceptable alternative theories to evolution. Hong Kong’s Secondary School Syllabus is now being re-drafted for publication in September 2009, and this has become a target for fundamentalists, who are seeking to include a provision in the biology syllabus to ensure that students are ‘encouraged to explore’ explanations other than Darwinian evolution.
The public activities of the fundamentalist right have become unavoidable in Hong Kong, to the extent that Legco Members were recently caused to complain to the media of their behaviour. So it was not surprising that Alva’s call struck an immediate response. What was surprising was the speed at which the CMN took off. Within days, an organising body of some 25 men and women formed itself on Facebook. Within two weeks, Alva committed the CMN to a public protest by more than 500 people inside another two weeks. On Feb 15, his project was dramatically fulfilled. After only a few coordinating meetings, the organisers held a press conference at the offices of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism and announced that a march would take place on the 15th.
Which it triumphantly did. The marchers came from all walks of life; men and women, old but mostly young, a few gay but the large majority straight, students, teachers, liberal Christians, atheists, accountants and social workers; this was a very disparate group united only in their belief in the need for civil rights in Hong Kong. All the placards, banners, loudspeakers, arm bands and ribbons were paid for by subscription by the marchers themselves; this was very much self-help in action. The march wended its way right down the central traffic lane of one of the major north-south thoroughfares in Kowloon, and towards its end in on Boundary Street in Prince Edward it attracted a large number of onlookers, many of whom, with the mass of traffic forming at closed cross junctions, could only stand and watch the demonstrators pass by. Outside the unmarked Prince Edward offices of one of the fundamentalist groups, the Society for Truth and Light, the demonstrators shouted slogans and ridiculed (in rather expressive Cantonese terms) the Society for hiding its light under a bushel. Noisy and lively but restrained and decently bahaved, the march was a model of principled civic action.
The march was both preceded and ended by a series of songs (one from the Cantopop group Beyond) and speeches from the organisers as well as a few visiting speakers, including a senior lecturer in Theology at Hong Kong’s Baptist University, Mr Chan Sze-chi, who led a prayer to start it off. Several groups of well wishers marched behind their own banners, including Hong Kong University’s Social Work and Social Administration Society and a group named TruthBible.net, an organisation of those recently involved in fighting the censorship imposed on items discussing incest at Hong Kong’s Chinese University. These had made their own Youtube film against the fundamentalists and to notify the public about the march.
Virginia Yue, one of the organisers, said that the march was just a beginning for the CMN. ‘We intend to organise workshops and talks for people to hear what we have to say,’ she told me. ‘As a result of the success of today’s march, we’ll now need a period of consultation amongst ourselves to plan what to do next,’ she added. Her fellow organiser Ken Lam saw that there was much to fight for: ‘There is a series of issues currently under discussion in Hong Kong,’ he pointed out, ‘all of which are attracting campaigns from the fundamentalists, the two principal ones being at the moment the DVO and the proposed changes to the Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance. The fundamentalists want to censor the net and we must fight to prevent it. The CMN will join forces with other liberal activists in Hong Kong. The fight is just beginning.’
February 27, 2009 – The Standard
US warns on wave of foreign male prostitutes – Growing numbers of male prostitutes from around the region are coming to Hong Kong to work, according to a United States government report.
by Patsy Moy
Growing numbers of male prostitutes from around the region are coming to Hong Kong to work, according to a United States government report. The latest US State Department report on human rights warns "an increasing number of men" are offering sex-for-sale services in the city. A local support group for male sex workers says they are paid between HK$1,000 and HK$5,000 for their services and that most of their clients are men.
Referring to the sex trade in general, the US report says: "The overwhelming majority were women, although an increasing number of young men came to work as homosexual prostitutes. "Nearly all trafficking victims initially go to Hong Kong willingly to engage in prostitution. Most come from rural areas of the mainland, Thailand or the Philippines on 14-day tourist visas. While many go on their own, some are lured by criminal syndicates with promises of financial rewards, while some face circumstances of debt bondage."
The report also cites Macau as a transit and destination point for women trafficked for the purposes of sexual servitude. "Authorities believe that Chinese, Russian and Thai criminal syndicates are involved in trafficking women to the SAR for prostitution, after which victims are passed on to local crime syndicates. Victims were primarily from mainland China, Mongolia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Thailand."
A Hong Kong government spokesman said it is determined to bring human traffickers to justice, describing the problem as "transnational in nature." Last year, the Immigration Department arrested 3,651 sex workers who were not Hong Kong residents. In 2007, the number was 3,787. There was no breakdown on gender. Midnight Blue, a local support network for male sex workers, said there has been a rise in the number of male sex workers coming from the mainland following the relaxation of travel restrictions. Others came from Thailand. A spokesman for Midnight Blue, who identified himself as Tommy Chan, said more male prostitutes are likely to come to Hong Kong because of the bad economic situation.
11 March 2009 – Fridae.com
New HIV cases hit record high in Hong Kong
by Sylvia Tan
New infection cases among MSMs, however, saw a drop from 168 in 2007 to 145 in 2008 – the first drop since 2003.
Hong Kong recorded its highest-ever number of HIV infections in a single year – 435 new HIV cases in 2008 – since 1984 when it was first recorded. The figure marks a five percent increase from the 414 cases reported in 2007 – an 11 percent increase over 2006’s 373 new HIV cases. Of the new cases in 2008, 145 resulted from homosexual relations, 131 from heterosexual contact, 40 from intravenous drug use and three from blood infusion, the Department of Health announced last week.
Despite the record levels last year, new infection cases among MSMs saw a drop from 168 in 2007 to 145 in 2008 – the first drop since 2003. (See chart above; source: info.gov.hk) While it’s a "good sign," AIDS Concern chief executive Loretta Wong told Fridae that "it’s too early to draw any conclusion from the figures." As for the record number of new HIV cases last year, Wong said that it might be due to more people taking HIV test last year and/or that "consistent condom use is not high enough in the high risk communities, that more people are getting test who are HIV positive."
She added that the current high figures may reflect the "insufficient" prevention effort in the last few years. "What we see now could indicate a low programme coverage and people were not accessing the services." Calling the 2008 figures "alarming and worrying," she stressed that AIDS Concern, which provides AIDS prevention services, adopts a "sexual health promotion" approach to address HIV issue, which takes a more "holistic perspective than just simply on HIV only." Wong called on the HKSAR government to "perceive the provision of funding as an ‘investment’ to the health of Hong Kong people." She stressed that comprehensive programmes that feature a combination of interventions or activities that can address the MSM and HIV issues such as distribution of condoms and lube, counselling and testing, peer education, and outreach activities are needed.
Last week, the organisation’s Flying High, Landing Safe programme came under fire from Wong Sing Chi (???), a Legislative Councillor, who organised a press conference on Mar 6 attacking the AIDS Trust Fund for funding a website "which promoted drug use." Wong had strongly opposed the Government’s proposal to amend the Domestic Violence Ordinance to cover same-sex cohabitants. The highnsafe.com web site, which has been taken offline since the project ended in January, is targeted at men who have sex with men (MSM) who are using or contemplating to use drugs. In response, AIDS Concern said in a statement that it was not their intention to promote drug use and the web site is "designed based on the harm reduction theory, which involves a range of non-judgmental strategies and approaches to provide the knowledge, skills, resources and supports to be safer and healthier."
26 March 2009 – Fridae.com
Assaults by Hong Kong’s religious right on HIV NGOs and LGBT groups
by Nigel Collett
Hong Kong LGBT organisations uncover a sinister Christian fundamentalist-inspired pattern of complaints about HIV and gay-related campaigns that have wended their way through the Government system which resulted in a series of harassing inquiries. Nigel Collett reports.
Hong Kong’s tongzhi (LGBT) organisations and HIV NGOs have come under sustained attack by Christian fundamentalist supporters seeking to use the organs of the Hong Kong Government to weaken or destroy them. Support by some Members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) has given the fundamentalists an avenue of complaint direct to the heart of Government (complaints by Members are handled at the top, at Bureau Secretary level) and they have not been slow to use the opportunity that last year’s September Legco elections has given them. Only now, though, has the pattern of intimidation they have planned begun to emerge, as the fundamentalist-inspired complaints have begun to wend their way through the slow Government system and as the tongzhi community puts together the different pieces of information that are now coming in.
It is clear that the overall plan is to involve as many departments of the Government as possible in investigating Members’ complaints. This has now started to involve tongzhi organisations and HIV NGOs in a series of harassing inquiries, at the least faced with the need to respond to telephone or written demands for information, at worst with summonses to Government offices to explain themselves to officials. On occasion this has even involved visits from the Police. All this, of course, is perfectly legal and in individual cases there would be nothing improper here. It is the pattern of systematised inquiry that reveals just how sinister this development is.
The campaign started just after the election with pressure brought against the Women’s Coalition, one of the most active tongzhi groups in Hong Kong, which had sent all Legco candidates a questionnaire asking their views on LGBT issues. This apparently enraged the fundamentalists, who complained publicly that the questionnaire was ‘biased.’
[PIC]More emerged in January 2009, when AIDS Concern’s Chief Executive, Loretta Wong, received a call from the Police following up a complaint by a member of the public against a forum message on the net-based site GayStation, run since 2000 by the well known tongzhi figure, Brian Leung. The message had been posted by a member of AIDS Concern and mentioned harm reduction drug therapy, which the complainant had told the Police was advocating drug use. "We had two police officers visit our office to ‘have a chat’ with me," says Loretta. The Police went away when they discovered that the poster of the BBS was only a part-time member of staff and that AIDS Concern did not promote drug use.
Loretta continues: "On 16 January, we then received a letter from the AIDS Trust Fund (ATF; the Hong Kong Government body dispensing funds to AIDS NGOs), stating that they had received a complaint about our ‘Flying High Landing Safe’ video website. The complaint had been made to the Chairman of the ATF and copied, maybe not coincidentally, to the Police Narcotics Bureau." At the same time, Democrat Party Legco Member Nelson Wong Shing-chi appears to have complained about the site to the Secretary for Justice, alleging that the ATF was using the Government’s money to build a website to promote drug use. ATF is clearly under pressure here, a serious matter as they control the money which funds Hong Kong’s campaign against HIV. The upshot was that the ‘Flying High Landing Safe’ site was voluntarily suspended in January.
In March, though, Wong Shing-chi went on the offensive in public, holding a press conference at which he attacked AIDS Concern and appearing on RTHK’s City Forum programme, in which a ‘member of the public’ stood up to allege that a mother had complained that her child had argued with her about drug use, citing the AIDS Concern site and saying, allegedly, that so long as ‘he remained high but safe’ he would be all right.
The Women’s Coalition and AIDS Concern have now been joined by another organisation under attack. In 2007, a radio project to promote safe sex was started by the Touch Project of the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association (BGCA) in conjunction with gayradio.hk. This became New Star 2007 which evolved into New Star 2008. A complaint was made this year about the site. Gayradio.hk and the BGCA decided to temporarily suspend the web page.
Though this has all been rather slow in emerging, these attempts to use Government bodies to attack tongzhi groups and HIV NGOs have already started to elicit a response.
On 17 March, well known Hong Kong writer Sam Ng Chi-sum used the pages of the Hong Kong Chinese newspaper Mingpao to attack Wong Shing-chi for his misuse of office. Ng revealed that religious extremists were attempting to damage safer sex projects by blaming them for promoting drug use. He denounced Wong and his fellow Christian extremists in forthright terms, deploring their ‘barbarian actions’ against LGBT NGOs. Ng stated his belief that the fundamentalists’ object was to reduce and eventually remove their subsidies.
Ng has let the fundamentalist cat well and truly out of the bag, and the tongzhi community is now mobilising. Chaired by Reggie Ho of the gay support group Horizons, the tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM, which links all the tongzhi bodies in Hong Kong) is developing a joint action plan with its members and with the largely heterosexual Civic Movement Network (CMN), over 1,000 of whom took to Kowloon’s streets on 15 February this year to protest against the fundamentalists’ assault on civil liberties and human rights. Connie Chan, leader of the Women’s Coalition, and co-leader of the loose tongzhi protest grouping 4mycolors, told me: "We totally support the ATF and AIDS Concern and will fight the fundamentalists’ new campaign in our work for this year’s IDAHO parade."
And AIDS Concern, gayradio.hk and Touch have vowed not to be brow beaten out of what they see is their duty to get across the message of safe sex. The suspended websites will soon be back on the net.
19 May 2009 – fridae.com
Hong Kong: 300 march to protest anti-gay legislators, demand equal rights
by News Editor
Some 300 gays, lesbians and their allies marched to the Legislative Council Building on Sunday to protest anti-gay legislators who have continuously opposed legal reforms designed to give LGBTs equal rights.
More than two dozen demonstrators staged a “die-in” outside the Legislative Council Building in Central to draw attention to what they see as Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen’s indifference and inaction despite attacks by anti-gay legislators. The demonstration is part of the city’s fifth IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) march. Organised by a coalition of groups including Women Coalition of HKSAR, Rainbow of Hong Kong and Amnesty International Hong Kong Section, marchers called on the government to implement laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The march also drew attention to Christian fundamentalist legislators such as Democrat Party Legco Member Nelson Wong Shing-chi and independent lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun both of whom strongly oppose the inclusion of same sex couples in the Domestic Violence Ordinance which is currently under review. The groups also hit out at Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung for his refusal to meet with gay groups to discuss the ordinance.
At the rally, members of League of Social Democrats (LSD) Raymond Wong Yuk-man and Leung Kwok-hung (nicknamed ‘Long Hair’) pledged to continue to champion the issues in Legco and highlighted that the LSD is the only party to include equal rights for sexual minorities in its manifesto.
June 1, 2009 – The New York Times
Memo From Hong Kong – Civil Liberties Within Limits After 12 Years of Beijing Rule
by Andrew Jacobs
Hong Kong — It was a raucous display of free speech outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council last week: construction workers demanding increased spending on public works, retirees agitating for heftier pensions, and legislators, wearing black T-shirts printed with tanks, calling on the Beijing government to apologize for the bloodshed in Tiananmen Square two decades ago. In the 12 years since it passed from British to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has remained a bastion of civil liberties unknown in mainland China, under an arrangement dubbed “one country, two systems.”
The result has been the continuation of a freewheeling press, an independent judiciary and a well-oiled bureaucracy. On Thursday, tens of thousands are expected to turn out for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park here to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, in which hundreds of students advocating democracy were killed. In the rest of China, any mention of the events at Tiananmen Square has been banned in the news media or public discourse.
But many democracy advocates and civil libertarians here are increasingly anxious about whether laissez-faire Hong Kong can maintain its independence from Beijing’s authoritarian grip and its distinct identity as an amalgam of Western and Chinese sensibilities. Last year, Beijing postponed direct elections — to 2017 for the chief executive and 2020 for the full legislature — and its critics say China is wielding a heavier hand in Hong Kong’s affairs. A growing roster of overseas visitors whose politics irritate Beijing have been denied entry to Hong Kong, and pro-China legislators have blocked efforts to include an uncensored account of Tiananmen Square in high school textbooks.
Longtime advocates of democracy like Martin Lee warn that China is chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomy by fiat or by co-opting business leaders and politicians. On Saturday, Mr. Lee, the founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, disclosed that he had been the target of an assassination plot that he said the authorities foiled last August. He said the men were arrested not long after he wrote an editorial accusing China of failing to live up to its pledge to improve human rights.
“If you throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out right away,” Mr. Lee said during an interview in his office overlooking the High Court. “But if you put the frog in warm water and cook it slowly, it doesn’t jump. We are being slowly cooked in Hong Kong, but hardly anyone is noticing.”
Mr. Lee and other democracy advocates have worried for years about Beijing’s expanding influence here. But in advance of the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen — and of the July 1anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 — they are concerned about a new willingness by public officials to openly back the mainland’s view. They say that is a jarring development in a city where a million people took to the streets in the summer of 1989 and where protests have been held every June 4 since then.
When asked two weeks ago if he supported exonerating the students who occupied Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Donald Tsang, told legislators that the episode was best forgotten. “This is something that happened a long time ago,” he said. “The national economy has grown and brought prosperity to Hong Kong.” He added that he thought his view “represents the opinion of Hong Kong people in general.” Other local officials aligned with Beijing have gone further, claiming that no one died during the crackdown, or that an armed response was warranted because student leaders were planning to kill government soldiers. And in April, Ayo Chan, the president of Hong Kong University’s student union, obliquely blamed the protesters for provoking the violence in Tiananmen.
Such statements do not go unchallenged, however. Angry students promptly voted Mr. Chan out of office, and Hong Kong’s chief executive was forced to apologize. A poll by Hong Kong University last week suggested that public sympathy for the Tiananmen protesters was high, with nearly 70 percent of Hong Kong residents saying the Chinese government had erred in its handling of the demonstrations. But those who closely watch the political culture here say reunification with China has begun to slowly alter Hong Kong’s unique ethos, even if the changes are hard to quantify and support for democracy is still strong. Numbers tell part of the story: a decline in the number of Western expatriates coinciding with a growing presence of mainlanders.
Last year, nearly 17 million mainland Chinese visited Hong Kong, compared with just over 2 million in 1997. Shifting demographics have had an even greater impact on local universities. More than half the postgraduate students studying here are from the mainland, up from barely one-third in 2003.
Like many other entrepreneurs here, Ronnie Chan, a billionaire whose company, Hang Lung Properties, has expanded into the mainland, argues that Hong Kong can flourish only through closer ties to China. In an interview last week, he said Hong Kong was far freer today than it ever was under the British. If anything, he said, society could use a bit more restraint, especially when it comes to the media. “People were afraid the media would be curbed, but it’s gone wild and become irresponsible,” said Mr. Chan, 59, who attended college and graduate school in the United States.
Groups like the Hong Kong Journalists Association take a different view, saying the number of media outlets willing to take on topics that might anger Beijing has been shrinking. Mak Yin-ting, a freelance journalist and former chairwoman of the association, said the owners of more than half of Hong Kong’s media outlets — many of whose owners have business interests in China — have been given advisory posts to the National People’s Congress and People’s Political Consultative Conference, which rubber-stamp decisions made by the Communist Party.
The result, Ms. Mak said, is that some reporters engage in self-censorship, while editors sometimes bury stories that might be unflattering to Beijing. “When your boss is a delegate to the National People’s Congress,” she said, “then you know it’s better not to criticize China too loudly.”
June 4, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay couples to be protected by Hong Kong domestic violence law
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Domestic Violence Ordinance will have an amendment to include same sex couples, the Hong Kong Government have announced. However, the Government has been keen to stress that this will not mean the government will legally recognise same sex marriages or relationships in any other respect. Following consultations, the new laws on domestic violence will remove all references to marriage or gender and refer to "cohabitation partnerships."
But, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the Minister for Labour and Welfare said that this "will not affect the Government’s policy stance of not recognising same sex marriage, civil partnership or any same sex relationship as a matter of legal status, nor will it involve or affect other existing legislation”. He added: "Noting that the intimate relationship between same-sex cohabitants may entail similar special power interface, dynamics and risk factors as in the relationship between heterosexual cohabitants, and that violence incidents can quickly escalate into life-threatening situations or even fatality, we propose to extend the scope of the Domestic Violence Ordinance from covering only heterosexual cohabitants to include also same-sex cohabitants."
The Government last August extended the scope of the law to include former spouses, former heterosexual cohabitants and other immediate and extended family members.
19 June 2009 – Fridae.com
From personal trauma to activism: Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung
y Nigel Collett
Fridae’s Hong Kong correspondent Nigel Collett meets with one of the city’s most prominent gay activists, Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung, who became active in gay and HIV/AIDS activism after being diagnosed with AIDS just months after his A-level exams. Kenneth Cheung has several claims to being unique in Hong Kong. He is the only publicly recognised gay activist who is HIV-positive. He is the only openly gay candidate to stand for public office (twice). He is the first person here to create a permanent drop-in and activity centre for tongzhi. He runs one of the most successful LGBT activist groups pressing for political change in Hong Kong today. Not bad as the life’s work of someone who, till not long ago, didn’t think he had many years left to him.
I went to the drop-in centre run by Rainbow of Hong Kong, seven floors above the busy junction of Nathan and Jordan Roads in Kowloon, to talk to Ken about his work and about his remarkable life story, for the two are inextricably entwined. Ken, who’s known to many by his nickname Ken-jai (Ken),realised he was gay and became sexually active while in secondary school. He left school after A-level and was diagnosed with AIDS (not just HIV) six months later in December 1995.
[Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If you get infected with HIV, your body will try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies" – special molecules to fight HIV. Many people are HIV-positive but don’t get sick for many years. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS. If you get an opportunistic infection, you have AIDS. Source: What Is AIDS? (Thebody.com)]
This traumatic revelation could have cut short everything then, but instead, it led Ken to discover both AIDS Concern and the AIDS Foundation, and what he saw there persuaded him to volunteer to join both to help others like him. There was no cocktail therapy available in Hong Kong then, and Ken watched many of the men he knew die. He was sure then that he would soon follow them.
He believed he had little time left to act, so he immersed himself in voluntary work. He attended Hong Kong’s Second Tongzhi Conference in 1998, where he met two men who inspired him to do more for the tongzhi community, Tommy Chen (Tommy jai) and Justin So. Both were prominent activists at the time (Tommy becoming famous some years later for his ‘Rainbow Actions’ in the Roman Catholic Cathedral and in front of the Central Police Station, where he led a protest against the prosecution of BDSM club and shop, Fetish Fashion). They gave Ken a taste for radical political action which he has never lost. Also at the conference was Dr Alan Li, one of the founders of the Ten Percent Club, who was by then working in Ontario. Li invited Ken to the MSM AIDS Conference in Toronto in 1998. Here, Ken saw large numbers of gay men at the conference, watched gay people together on the street (during the local Pride Day) and visited a LGBT centre in the city.
This was a revelation that proved to be a turning point in his life. He returned to Hong Kong determined to do something for the working class men he believed had no support from the community. By now, cocktail therapy had transformed his own prognosis and he had begun to have growing expectations of life. He began to make public statements to the media as a man living with AIDS and spoke also at meetings such as the Hong Kong University sociology sharing session organised by writer-activist Chou Wah-shan and Loretta Wong, who was later to become head of AIDS Concern. At this time he was still shielding his real name, as well as his face, from the camera, but despite this he managed to become the publicly-recognised spokesman for HIV sufferers in Hong Kong.
Setting up Rainbow of Hong Kong
In March 1999, with Justin and Tommy, he fulfilled the dream he had had in Canada by starting the group Rainbow of Hong Kong. This became a club, a network and an activist group, but at the time it had no base, so had to meet in rooms lent them by other NGOs. Even then they aspired to open a drop-in centre one day. That September, they made Hong Kong news for the first time when interviewed in The Sunday newspaper, and this led to an exponential growth in interest, inquiries and membership. They formed groups for secondary school pupils, for university students and for the elderly. Attempting to rent a space for a base in 2000, they failed to raise sufficient funds, but this attracted advice from a social worker, which led to a grant from the Equal Opportunities Commission and another from the Aids Trust Fund (ATF, the NGO administering HIV funding on behalf of the Government). With this, they opened their first Centre in Mongkok and Ken became a full-time volunteer at last.
Yet they were unable to keep the centre going. Costs, plus the departure abroad of Tommy and Justin, as well as Ken’s increasing interest in the social democracy movement, led its closure in 2001 after less than a year. Ken’s interest had by then turned to electoral politics. In 2003, at the district council election in the Mongkok South ward, he stood as a candidate for a group called 7.1 People Pile (????, named after a mass protest in Hong Kong on Jul 1, 2003). He was unsuccessful, but tried again in 2007, also without success, this time for the League of Social Democrats. The abuse and criticism his openly gay platform attracted was a bruising experience, and he remains Hong Kong’s only out gay electoral candidate to date. Knowing now that he had a much fuller life ahead of him than he had feared, he had gone back to education at the Hong Kong College of Technology in 2005; four and a half years later, he has just qualified to become a registered social worker.
During these years he did not forget his original project, and the idea sprang to life again in 2006, when he attended the Outgames in Montreal and, with the rest of the crowd of 50,000, heard Martina Navratilova make her inspiring speech: “Come out – tell the truth – play the game.” She, and Alan Li, who was also there, rekindled Ken’s enthusiasm and the second Rainbow Centre was born a year later. The Outgames in Montreal were also the last time, too, that Ken ever disguised his name or his face.
Incidentally, Alan Li’s lifelong work in the gay and HIV communities has just been recognised in Canada, where in April 2009 he received the prestigious Council Award from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in recognition of his achievements in improving health care for the many diverse and marginalised populations in Ontario. Alan is the first Chinese Canadian physician, the first HIV primary care physician and the first openly gay physician honoured with this award in the College’s history.
Whether Ken will ever find himself similarly honoured in his own country is open to doubt. He himself admits that he is well known for the ‘aggressive’ type of community politics he and Rainbow have on occasion pursued; this is unlikely to have endeared him to Hong Kong’s conservative establishment. But Ken’s politics is beside the point in the issue of the preservation of the community facility he has created. It is again under threat.
The current Rainbow Centre in Jordan has one large meeting room that’s not luxurious, though it’s comfortable enough and provides a good space for people to drop in and chill out on its sofas, as well as for groups to use the tables and chairs for meetings. It has TV facilities and a library of both books and DVDs, an office for Ken and his staff of volunteers and a pantry and toilet. It’s light and airy, a small haven in the heart of the city for those who seek some quiet or who need the companionship or comfort of their fellows. Rainbow of Hong Kong, the LGBT activist group that is based there, has over 700 registered members on its books and runs activities in the Centre as well as an outdoor programme.
In Hong Kong terms the Centre isn’t expensive to run. The rent is about HK$11,000 (US$1,420) a month, in addition to which it has to pay for its utilities. On top of this would come Ken’s salary, were he able to draw it. Basically, he gets whatever is left over and in many months there is little or nothing left to pay him. Money is a continuing headache. The tongzhi community contributes a little and the LGBT groups that make use of the centre pay something towards its running costs. At the moment, these include the Women Coalition of Hong Kong SAR and the CD (Cross Dressing) Family.
The AIDS Foundation runs support groups and workshops in the Centre, as well as HIV testing on Saturdays and Sundays. These activities, plus ongoing fund raising programmes, bring in about half the rent. The immediate shortfall is made up at the moment by the HIV drug company, Abbott, which sponsors the Centre’s testing services and also helped promote the fundraising concert ‘For the Long Term’, which Rainbow held at the Baptist University late last year. But, as you can see, these sources of funds are currently all too little to cover monthly costs and leave the Centre without sound funding for the future.
The Hong Kong Government is not contributing. Up until last year, the Government had provided some funds through the ATF. When the centre was founded in 2007, some Hong Kong Health Department officials had just attended the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto (as had Ken), and there they listened to Alan Li’s report on research indicating that AIDS prevention work was more effective when carried out from LGBT centres than from clinics. Impressed, on their return they gave Rainbow a grant to cover one year’s HIV prevention work with MSM, though not for HIV testing or counselling. Using the grant, Rainbow ran workshops, did volunteer training, opened a hot line and involved itself in occasional activities like making an online radio programme and participating in the World AIDS Day ‘Freehugs for HIV/AIDS’ event.
The next year, a reduced grant from the ATF did not even cover the rent, though Rainbow carried on working with an outreach programme to gay saunas and bars and with the collection of the life stories of people living with HIV. Now, in 2009, even this grant has ceased, as the ATF has lost funding and has drawn back from many of its projects (its grants to both the AIDS Foundation and AIDS Concern are similarly suffering), telling Rainbow that its funds can now only be used for testing and counselling projects and not for projects concentrating on MSM. Another opportunity to apply for a grant comes up later this year, but there is not much hope in the current financial climate that Rainbow will secure one.
Typically, Ken is committed to fight on. He’s beaten down so many obstacles already that he intends to win this fight, too. The Rainbow Centre has been part of his commitment to his fellow tongzhi and to those living with HIV and AIDS for too long for him to walk away from his dream now. It serves a population of young tongzhi whom society would otherwise leave out in the cold and has a wide outreach to the vulnerable and the needy in our community.
With a full time staff of only one and some dedicated part time volunteers, the Centre has few resources to raise its own funding whilst carrying out its community programmes. The ‘For the Long Term’ concert last year, and this year’s benefit showing (on May 3) of Scud’s new film, Permanent Residence, are evidence enough that Rainbow is doing what it can to help itself. But what it raises is currently falling short of its needs.
Hong Kong’s tongzhi community is beginning to recognise that it is in danger of losing its Rainbow Centre for a second time; there is talk now of Fruits in Suits contributing part of its income from one or more events towards the Centre. Yet what the community has managed in response to this crisis has so far been insufficient. More help is urgently needed. Without consistent fundraising efforts to cover the longer term, Rainbow and Ken’s dream may fail yet again.
If you would like to make a donation, you can do so via one of the following channels:
– Mail a local cheque (issued by a Hong Kong bank) to Rainbow of Hong Kong, Mongkok P.O. Box 78882, Kowloon, Hong Kong
– Make a transfer directly to their bank account [Hang Seng Bank, Account no: 356-142059-001, Name: Rainbow of Hong Kong]
– Make a transfer via PayPal [Cheung Kam Hung (firstname.lastname@example.org) "Rainbow of Hong Kong"]
14 Jul 2009 – fridae.com
Behind the cameras at Hong Kong’s GDotTV
by Nigel Collett
Nigel Collett goes behind the cameras at GDotTV, a new web-based gay Internet TV station featuring original programming such as LGBT Hotspot, Hong Kong Salvation – a news and culture programme and LGBT Speaks – a chat show.
The studio of Hong Kong’s web-based tongzhi (literally to mean comrade but is a commonly used term to mean LGBT) TV station, GDotTV, is housed in the offices which Nutong Xueshe (NTXS for short) opened with a bang in April this year by throwing a house warming party to which much of Hong Kong’s tongzhi community was invited. Until then, only the Rainbow Centre in Kowloon had provided a meeting place for the community; now, on the Hong Kong side of the harbour, NTXS has taken up the fight to provide us all with somewhere to meet, to organise, to create TV programmes and to chill out. Their place is really well situated right in the heart of Causeway Bay near Times Square. NTXS has a lease there for a year, and the place is already attracting tongzhi groups to its facilities for seminars and classes. There’s a large meeting room, a kitchen and toilet, and a spacious balcony which (when Hong Kong’s muggy summer weather ends) will be perfect for BBQing. The video and computer equipment which form the heart of the centre are at one end of the meeting room. I went there one evening to meet Vice, Director of GDotTV, and she told me about NTXS and their project to put the tongzhi perspective to the public on the net. Vice is one of two Co-Directors who initially ran the TV station, but is now the sole Director as the other, K, has just stepped down to take a break.
In 2005, animated by the campaign that was then being waged by the Christian fundamentalist right to prevent the Government introducing a bill to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual-orientation, a group met up with prominent Hong Kong activist and academic Yau Ching. They were all angered by the misrepresentations being made by the fundamentalists about the tongzhi community, in the media and on street-side bill boards, the usual highly unpleasant accusations linking gays and lesbians with dirt, disease and corruption of the family. It was time, they believed, to set the record straight. The result was the formation of NTXS, a platform for the community to express itself and to bring its real image to a wider public. NTXS had seven founders and now has a Committee of eight, including two Executive Co-Directors, Perspex and Siu Cho (the latter the hero of the successful action to seek judicial review of the Broadcasting Authority’s censure of RTHK’s programme Hong Kong Connection – Gay Lovers.
Why did they choose for their group’s name the Mandarin words nu tong xue she (????), I asked? ‘The ideas behind the Chinese characters are quite complicated’, Vice explained, ‘and they can’t be directly translated.’ In essence, they combine the concepts encapsulated in the character nu (‘female’, ‘girl’, but extended in this context to include anything diverse that is not part of the masculine-oriented ‘patriarchy’ of traditional society); tong (meaning ‘with’, ‘together’, ‘cooperation’, and, when linked as nu tong, also ‘lesbian’); xue (‘learning’, ‘education’, and, when linked in nu tong xue, ‘female student’) and she (‘association’, ‘organisation’, and, when linked in xue she means ‘school’). In short, it means something like ‘association for tongzhi to come together to learn’.
All this sounded to me initially as though NTXS was a lesbian organisation, but my attendance at the house warming party disabused me of that idea. Vice explained that NTXS had expanded its initial founders to a core group of seven, both male and female, and a number of volunteers of all sexes and genders whom they had gathered. NTXS sessions are open to all, and the people using the offices now include a wide variety of groups and individuals, bisexuals, gays, lesbians and transgendered folk. ‘People can see NTXS’s value to the community and like its inclusiveness’, Vice thought.
NTXS’s first work was to set up a web site, named Rainbow Station, and this quickly accumulated contributions in the form of articles and essays on a huge range of subjects, over 200 to date. The English site of NTXS (though not yet of Rainbow Station, which they intend to translate when they have the resources) is at: http://leslovestudy.com. The website was followed by a series of seminars and workshops and led ultimately to the founding of the TV station, GDotTV, in February 2008. Initially, this was planned as a platform to support the tongzhi community to produce videos on LGBT matters, but it now accepts submissions from outside and also offers advice on the making of videos, running a seminar last year to train 20 volunteers in video production. These helpers have allowed the station to make a series of its own programmes, which are now online at GDotTV.com, almost all, save for one or two episodes made by non-Chinese contributors, in Mandarin or Cantonese.
The station offers a wide range of programmes mostly in Cantonese (some are in Mandarin): LGBT Hotspot is a show giving information on places to go, for food, shopping, bars, accommodation (with one episode on the Rainbow Centre in Kowloon). Hong Kong Salvation is a news and culture magazine covering items like the public appearances by Beijing tongzhi couples on Valentine’s Day, 2009, and the judicial review of the RTHK programme, Gay Lovers last year. LGBT Speaks is a chat show, with interviews of prominent tongzhi figures, like the bisexual video artists Kiki and the US activist Irene Tung, from the ‘Make the Road by Walking’ organisation. This programme has interviewed subjects from as far afield as Taiwan, and currently the programme is working on some interviews in mainland China. Study For One Minute is a review of LGBT books by Yau Ching (who keeps it brief but thankfully takes rather longer than a minute to discuss each), and Tongzhi Artists’ Works is, as it sounds, a venue for artists to air their work; three of the five episodes shown so far have been from Taiwan.
Other programmes shown so far are: Cookery, presented by Denise and her partner Lulu (the latter is the cook), one of the episodes of which was titled Tom Boy Kitchen; Amazing Talent, with items including a tomboy cutting hair in three minutes; and All About Heterosexuality, a satirical poke at the opposition presented by Siu Cho, who recites the speeches made by right wingers against the tongzhi community but replacing any words they employ for ‘homosexual’ with the word ‘heterosexual’.
GDotTV now aims to widen its reach. It has run a video production tutorial for small groups since June this year and is planning a video production workshop bi-monthly from July. This will allow an additional programme screened from July, a regular documentary film on a tongzhi issue. Each programme they make needs a considerable number of volunteers to staff it. The film they made of a fundamentalist-style attempt to exorcise out homosexuality, for instance, was something that took five people to make. Filming events like the Pride parade or IDAHO can take up to five cameramen to ensure that all the shots are covered.
NTXS’s new offices have already attracted a good deal of other activity. Siu Cho runs a study group on censorship on Tuesday nights; Febe runs a photography group on Wednesday evenings. From August this year, a class will be run on Google tools. All this comes at a cost, of course, in terms of rental, utilities and video equipment. NTXS has been very successful so far in attracting the funding that has allowed it to set up its office for the first year of operation, and which allowed initially the employment of two part time staff, the GDotTV Director and a Project Coordinator (Mandy, who has just replaced Chris, who has returned to study in Nottingham). Grants have been received from two US bodies, Mama Cash, a women’s rights organisation, and Astrea, which supports lesbian groups. These grants have to be renewed annually, so NTXS will need to keep focussed on fund raising and may need other assistance or sources of funding in due course.
I asked Vice, who is one of the two part time Project Coordinators, how she had come to this role. ‘I studied for four years in Singapore’, she replied, ‘on a Singapore Government grant, but I didn’t plan to stay there and came back to study mechanical engineering at Hong Kong University. But I’d been into animation and graphics since I was young. I did my first animation in Primary 3’. Having graduated, she decided to look for work in the field she loved and started freelancing in animation, making and screening videos in Hong Kong and abroad, including in Japan. She has produced the animations, and wrote the lyrics, for an MTV screened at the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Having co-founded NTXS, she has, of course, done a lot of work filming LGBT videos with GDotTV. She’s just got her Master’s in Fine Arts and Creative Media at Hong Kong’s City University. I asked her whether her work with LGBT – themed video had made it difficult to get a place at the City U. ‘Not at all’, she replied, ‘it was actually a help. They are very liberal.’
GDotTV has a growing reach, and has record of 75,000 clicks onto its programmes since February 2008. These are mostly from viewers in Hong Kong, but also from anywhere across the Chinese diaspora, from China, Taiwan, the US, Canada, Malaysia and Australia. Being older, Rainbow Station still gets proportionately more hits, receiving 120,000 since May 2008.
Unfettered access to the internet is clearly something of great concern to NTXS, and it is naturally the front running group in the Hong Kong tongzhi community on the issue of censorship. The Hong Kong Government is currently considering proposals to revise the Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, and NTXS is leading the fight to keep the net free. As part of this, they have tested a series of filtering systems used in Hong Kong, analysing those which block out LGBT sites. They presented their findings to the Legislative Council in October last year and gained some coverage in the local press at the time, but little more than an acknowledgement from the Government. In January this year, they set up a new website, nocensorshiphk.com, to provide a template for people to oppose any future censorship of the net, and this has so far attracted some 16,000 signatures. The second round of consultations on the new Ordinance is expected to commence soon, and NTXS is standing by to spearhead the tongzhi community’s reaction then. We will be bringing you this story as it unfolds over the next few months.
28 September 2009 – Fridae
Hong Kong at risk of losing its only gay community centre
by Sylvia Tan
Rainbow of Hong Kong, the only LGBT-community centre in the territory, faces an uncertain future due to lack of funding and is appealing to the community for donations to keep it going. Rainbow of Hong Kong, a LGBT-community centre located at the busy junction of Nathan and Jordan Roads in Kowloon, is finding itself in a precarious situation and is at risk of having to shut down if its hope to raise additional funds doesn’t materialise.
In a statement appealing for funds, co-founder of the centre Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung, who’s known to many by his nickname Ken-jai (Ken?), said the organisation had been unsuccessful in its applications for grants from various agencies and had not received any funding from government sources since May 2009. Since then, the centre has stayed open with donations from supporters but may not be sufficient in the long-term. The rent is about HK$11,000 (US$1,420) a month and the centre does not have any staffing costs as its committee members, Wai Wai, Timothy, Tommy and Ken volunteer their time to run the centre.
“We perceive the approach of a difficult and cold winter through which we are striving to keep this LGBTQ Community Centre open, not allowing it to close again.” Ken said. The group launched its first centre in Mongkok in 2000 with grants from the Equal Opportunities Commission and AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) but was shut down after a year due to lack of funding. In 2007, the centre was given a second lease of life with funds from the AFT to cover one year’s HIV prevention work with MSM, though not for HIV testing or counselling, Ken told Fridae in an interview published in June.
In addition to being a drop-in centre that attracts about 200 visitors every week, the space is used by LGBT groups including the Women’s Coalition of HKSAR, Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Unitarian Universalists Hong Kong and CD (Cross Dressing) Family, and the organising committees of International Day Against Homophobia HK Parade and Hong Kong Pride. (The second pride parade will be held Nov 1, 2009.)
The centre also provides AIDS education programs and HIV blood testing service on Saturdays.
If you would like to make a donation, you can do so via one of the following channels:
– Mail a local cheque (issued by a Hong Kong bank) to Rainbow of Hong Kong, Mongkok P.O. Box 78882, Kowloon, Hong Kong
– Cash deposit / transfer to their bank account [Hang Seng Bank, Account no: 356-142059-001, Account name: Rainbow of Hong Kong]
– Make a transfer via PayPal [Cheung Kam Hung "Rainbow of Hong Kong"]
Rainbow of Hong Kong requests that donors mail the receipt to the centre with your name and contact information.
2 October 2009 – Fridae
Ahoy there, sailors! Sail with Floatilla, Hong Kong’s best kept secret
by Nigel Collett
Fridae.com’s Hong Kong correspondent, Nigel Collett, interviews Greg Crandall, ‘Admiral’ of Hong Kong’s gay fleet which is scheduled to set sail the day before Hong Kong Pride, on Oct 31.
The sheer scope of diversity in Hong Kong’s tongzhi world is often hard to keep up with. There is just so much happening across the community that it’s easy to get bewildered by it all, and often it’s still very much the case that we do our own thing in our own area and not everyone else knows that we’re doing it. There are, though, thankfully some big events in the Hong Kong LGBT calendar which bring us all together.
The oldest of all, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, hits our screens this year between 20 November and 1 December. The youngest, the Pride Parade, this year only in its second incarnation, will take to the streets on Sunday 1 November. The third, and the middle child of the three, Floatilla, will set sail perfectly timed on the day before Pride, on Saturday 31 October. This, Hong Kong’s best kept tongzhi secret, will be our fourth nautical extravaganza. I met up with its founding ‘Admiral,’ Greg Crandall, over coffee in Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and asked him what this year holds and how he has piloted his fleet this far.
But before I relay to you what he told me, let me tell you a little about Floatilla. For the last three years, Greg has masterminded the assembling of a fleet of junks, each hired by a different bunch of LGBT revellers. This has set sail to a destination kept carefully secret until the day from all but the Chinese coxswains and has then anchored up to party the day away together.
The first year, 2006, saw over 550 boys and girls on ten boats. The next year, 2007 about doubled this, to over 1000 people, and though 2008 was down a bit (perhaps due to the time of the year, a cool and blustery spring, chosen the year before) the number was still about 850. To get onboard you’ve got to register with a participating boat, and they’re all registered with Greg, so this is something kept quiet within the tongzhi community. And boat crews come from absolutely every part of the Hong Kong tongzhi scene: lesbian, gay and transgender; club kids and university students; young and old; local and expat; bear and twink. Almost every different demographic element has been included in what is, in effect, the community’s ‘Private Pride’, not out on the city streets this time but out at sea celebrating itself within itself, for the next day’s Pride Parade will be the community’s chance to celebrate in public.
For in a fleet of boats, as all have discovered, you can sail with your own crew and stay in ‘your own house’ if you’re more inclined or just a little shy, but you can also mingle with those on the junk next door as much or as little as you like. We actually get to see one another for a change. And what a sight it is; ‘just magnificent!’ Greg says very proudly. He got the idea back in the States when attending a ‘Splash’ on Lake Hippy Hollow at Austin, Texas. All sorts of craft, pleasure boats and speed boats have long gathered there to party at the end of the summer.
A few years later, in 1999, by then in San Francisco and getting a bit jaded with the way his life was heading, Greg decided to take an adventure, sold up his property and moved what was left of his life to Hong Kong. He’s been here ever since and has no desire ever to leave. The ‘Splash’ idea, though, wouldn’t leave him, and he talked about it so incessantly that his friends eventually suggested he put up or shut up about it, so he decided on the former and took the plunge. Assuming the ambivalent name ‘Sharkbait’ he started to organise the event by word of mouth and the net, and Floatilla was launched.
Till now he’s managed it all himself, a mammoth task. He set up the web site floatillahk.com (where you can register your boat for this year’s event or get on the individual mailing list. Check it out, too, for a few photos of earlier events). If you want to enter a junk you’ll need HK$1,500 to register. This pays for the insurance, the lifeguards, the shuttles that take the aquatically-challenged between junks at the final anchorage, the medical assistants and the website, and comes to all of about HK$33 a head, depending, of course, on how many you can get onboard your boat. Safety is a huge concern, given the number of happy party goers afloat at one time, so legal limits on junks are strictly adhered to. But any money left over every year goes to charity. AIDS Concern, for instance, has been a beneficiary and this year it’ll be Horizons, the gay youth counselling and support NGO.
Floatilla has grown like topsy over its still short life and Greg recognised this year it had become too much for even Sharkbait to handle alone. He’s now formed a committee to manage the day, and has been joined on this by some of the community’s key movers and shakers: Edowan Bersma, the doyen of the Lan Kwai Fong scene; Betty Grisoni and Abby Lee, the organisers of Les Peches; Paul Caldera, Tony Smyth and Evan Miracle. Jamie Higgins of the 97 Group is also lending an occasional hand. The policy remains, though, firm that Floatilla is all inclusive, that any tongzhi group can sail, that no one group or organisation is allowed to ‘own’ the event and that there’ll always be a component of charitable giving. Greg also thinks it’s important to help nurture tongzhi friendly businesses, like travel agents and clubs, who are all allowed to sponsor the event in return for some good PR.
Greg Crandall, ‘Admiral’ of Floatilla
Through Sharkbait, Greg, a Creative Director in an agency for advertising, marketing and communications that is part of the Asia Media Group, has become one of the better known expat faces on the Hong Kong tongzhi scene. He has, though, another claim to fame here. Six years ago he met one of Hong Kong’s leading dancers, Allen Lam (whose show with Tony Wong, Moments in the Palm of Your Hand, wowed Hong Kong this year and has just staged in Macau). Allen had been in the States for about nine years and had just returned. They fell pretty quickly in love and, in 2008, decided to marry.
First, they threw a celebration in the restored classic Bethany building in Pok Fu Lam, at which many of Allen’s fellow APA members performed for the couple. “It was a star-studded ‘It’s Your Life’ kind of celebration, one of the most magic things,” Greg says. Then they flew to California and wed under the same-sex marriage law that all too briefly held sway in that state. They were married on the steps of City Hall just before the law was annulled. Greg says that neither of them has any regrets.
“The marriage licence has changed everything,” he avers. “Being married is a different level of commitment. A marriage certificate is serious stuff that every immigration official or government bureaucrat has to think twice about. It’s a great mental card to pull when you need it,” he adds. “But all that’s unimportant beside the level of commitment it shows for each other. I’m still honeymooning!”
Greg and Allen’s partnership is just one reason why he’s not going to be leaving Hong Kong any time in the foreseeable future and why we can count on the long term survival of Floatilla. It’ll continue to evolve and improve, too. “We’re looking at introducing a beach component,” Greg says, “for those whose stomachs rule out junk trips.” Though Hong Kong may be behind Singapore and Shanghai in establishing an annual tongzhi festival, Greg, and the Film Festival’s Joe Lam and Pride Parade’s Connie Chan and her team, have already put the three pillars of a future festival in place. With a little juggling of dates, this possibility is now well within the grasp of the community. Time, perhaps, to take up that challenge too.
27 October 2009 – Fridae
Hong Kong’s Pride: Connie Chan
by Nigel Collett
Fridae.com’s Hong Kong correspondent Nigel Collett meets Connie Chan Man-wai, pre-eminent local activist and Chief Director of Hong Kong Pride 2009.
Connie Chan is not in the business of blowing her own trumpet. That she has been at least involved in, and occasionally has certainly been the direct cause of, almost every political development that has involved Hong Kong’s tongzhi community over the last decade, she sees as just something pretty normal. For it is the struggle to which she has devoted her life. Not that she’s going to give herself any credit for it, and I confess that I had to sneakily use her role as Chief Director of this year’s Hong Kong Pride to get her to talk to me and to open up about herself and her achievements.
She’s frantically busy now, as is the whole Pride Committee she leads, getting the last details stowed away before we take to the streets on Sunday 1 November, so we had to meet briefly late one night at a McCafe in Jordan. The Parade, naturally, was the subject that came first. This is Hong Kong’s second Pride, and Connie’s team aims to build on the success they achieved last year when over 1,000 marched. She contrasts this with the first IDAHO parade she helped organise in 2005 when everyone was worried no one would turn up and so careful was the organising committee that they ordered 100 masks for those who feared to show their faces to the media. Over 300 marched that day and the masks went in the bin.
In the following years, 300 became 400 then 600, and at that point Connie knew that Hong Kong could go for a Pride Parade. “Hong Kong wasn’t ready for this before 2008,” she thinks, “gay people weren’t ready to show themselves in sufficient numbers, there wasn’t any money and we weren’t sure how to run a parade. But IDAHO taught us we could do it and how to make it work. In fact it is easier to get people to come out in a Pride Parade,” she says, “as it’s not a political thing and it’s easier to get people interested. It’s easier to be happy!” Which is what, of course, Pride is all about.
This year’s theme is ‘Be Proud Be Yourself’, something Connie is convinced we all need to be if we are to stand up and fight for our rights. “You have to be proud of yourself to come out, and if you don’t come out and be seen, nothing will change,” she says. So the Committee is asking everyone to wear pink to make themselves stand out. It hopes that all the LGBT groups in Hong Kong, and the myriad groups in the wider community that support LGBT rights, will march under their own banner and show they are proud of their own team, too. The organisations who have shouldered most of the work for this year’s Pride are Women Coalition of HKSAR, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Midnight Blue, Nutong Xueshe and Gay Harmony, but others will take supporting roles.
Brian Leung of GayStation and presenter of RTHK’s programme ‘We are Family’ will act as MC for half the programme to be held in Chater Garden at the end of the parade. Community TV, an NGO making internet programmes, will show live coverage on the net. Renowned local artist Kiwi has designed the Miss FAT event t shirt and Women Coalition’s Lik Lik has designed the theme tee (you can see the designs here; each costs HK$98 and there’s only a limited edition of 100). Two organisations are throwing an After Party, Les Peches for the girls and Cocktails for the boys, (for details of the latter, a Tea Dance, check out cocktailsproduction.com).
Like last year, contingents are expected from abroad; China will be there in strength, with groups from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. There’s also planned to be a contingent flying in from Malaysia, and there’ll probably be others from elsewhere. Connie gave me the exciting news that respected Hong Kong film director Ann Hui has agreed to be this year’s Rainbow Celebrity and will be present in Chater Garden at the close. In November, Hui will bring out her latest film, a story of local lesbians, so this is perfect timing.
Organising all this calls for a huge amount of effort, much money and many volunteers. The Committee is desperately seeking assistance, so if you want to help, to register a group or to donate cash, go to the Pride’s web site and click on the side buttons ‘Join Us’ to volunteer and ‘Donations’. They need about HK$100,000 (US$13,000) to run this event and they are not yet half way to achieving that. And, of course, put on something pink and come and join the Parade on the 1st; it kicks off at 2.30 pm at Southorn Playground next to Wanchai MTR Station.
Uphill battles for change are not new to Connie, as I found out when she went on to tell me something of herself. The long and winding road which has brought her to Pride started back in school in the nineties, where she first became aware of her attraction to other girls and then fell in love. “I was in a mixed school,” she recalls, “and there was no way to meet other lesbians. I thought I was the only lesbian in Hong Kong!” she laughs.
She put paid to that idea in a typically straightforward way by ringing Hong Kong Telecom and asking them to put her through to a lesbian group. The bemused operator gave her the Ten Percent Club, so Connie joined the women’s group that they had back then and soon became its leader, a position she held for three years. Their activities were entirely social, something which will probably surprise those who are aware of her serious dedication to the tongzhi cause and who haven’t taken her for a party animal! Politics, though, soon called. There was nowhere really to turn to for this at that time, so, using the organisational skills she’d acquired, she and four College girls set up Lui Tung Yuen (LTY), or Home for Girls, in 1996.
The organisers intended LTY to focus not on imported foreign queer ideas but on local issues and needs. It was a breakthrough for a lesbian organisation in Hong Kong, soon achieving over 300 members, and it lasted three years before its founders drifted apart to move abroad or found careers. Things in Hong Kong were changing then: the Internet meant that meeting others was no longer so hard; lesbian bars had begun to pop up in the city. The old ways of organising no longer worked so well. Frustrated, Connie took a break from tongzhi work and spent a couple of years with women’s groups and human rights NGOs in Hong Kong.
All this was going on while she was studying, firstly for a first degree in marketing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and secondly for her master’s degree in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, after which Connie took up a career as a journalist. “I love writing,” she confesses, and says that she thoroughly enjoyed her time as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines including Apple Daily and Ming Pao. Yet although the skills and pressures of a commercial life have given her the organising abilities which now lie behind Hong Kong’s Pride, Connie felt the chasm between her day time job and her activism growing, so she eventually abandoned her beloved writing and took a post with an NGO helping workers in the commercial sex industry, Action for REACH OUT, where she works today.
In 2003, she went back to politics and came together with two close friends, Wai Wai and Lik Lik, to take up the political struggle for Hong Kong’s tongzhi women once more. They founded Women Coalition of HKSAR to focus on legal reform, advocacy and the issues of sexuality and gender in Hong Kong society affecting lesbian, bisexual and transgender women.
Their brainchild has grown fast in the last six years and now has a Committee of seven (the more recent additions being Karen, Joe, Penny and Joanne). They have a large list of members and meet on the first Saturday of every month at the Rainbow Centre in Kowloon for talks and seminars as well as for social events like wine tasting. Women Coalition has been at the core of every parade held in Hong Kong since the first IDAHO march; it is safe to say that without them we would not have yet got to the point of staging a Pride by this year.
They provide many of the key personnel inside the Parade’s organisation; aside from Connie, Lik Lik, for instance, is the Parade’s Chief Commander, Wai Wai runs the office, Joe runs security and Karen coordinates the volunteers. They are also the principal tongzhi community lobbyists of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco), spearheading the fight at the moment to include same sex couples in Hong Kong’s Domestic Violence Ordinance. Women Coalition has also instigated, and in some cases carried out, studies and surveys of issues such as the effect of discrimination on LGBT people; they were co-publishers in 2005 of a book about this.
They brought out an anthology of lesbian lives three years later (Love Women) and this year were heavily involved in a study conducted by the Chinese University into domestic violence amongst same sex couples (which itself followed up a smaller study they had conducted themselves). All this is serious and important work for the community.
“Our next project, at the end of this year or at the start of next, will be to do with the difficulties faced by transgender people in Hong Kong,” Connie informed me. “There are many issues that face them: unclear or difficult sex change procedures; getting married; facing discrimination. We are about to meet with Legco Members to start off this issue,” she adds.
“Many people ask me why I’m still here doing these things after ten years,” Connie grins. “Most people don’t last that long. But there’s so much left to do, and if you want to change the world you’ve got to be patient. The movement needs patience to succeed.” Connie has that patience, and it’s paid off. Hong Kong has gone from a few hundred nervous marchers at the first IDAHO, scared of showing their faces in public, to what Connie confidently expects will be a Pride Parade this year where several thousand tongzhi people and their friends will walk down Hong Kong’s highways in the full light of day; to be proud, to be themselves.
That is something for which, to a large degree, the Hong Kong tongzhi community has Connie Chan to thank.
4 November 2009 – Fridae
Hong Kong’s 2nd pride parade a success but HK$77,000 short
by Sylvia Tan
Produced at a cost of over HK$110,000 (US$14,000) without government or charity funding, organisers say they are HK$77,000 (US$10,000) short and are appealing for funds. About 1,800 – nearly twice the number last year – marched from Wan Chai to Chater Garden in Central on Sunday, Nov 1, for greater visibility and equal rights. Organisers say they hope for the event to promote awareness, dignity, and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. With this year’s Be Proud Be Yourself theme, they hope for LGBT individuals to have the confidence and courage to come out and be counted.
Aside from the organising coalition comprising Women Coalition of HKSAR, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Midnight Blue, Nutong Xueshe, Gay Harmony, local groups marched alongside lesbian and gay groups from Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Beijing; representatives from InterPride, Taiwan LGBT Pride Community and Taipei’s Gingin bookstore; and tourists from Singapore, Philippines, US, Canada, chief director of the Hong Kong Pride Parade committee Connie Chan Man-wai told Fridae.
Notably, the Interbank LGBT Exchange contingent comprising at least 20 gay or gay-friendly members marched for the second consecutive year. Their “Walking with Pride” banner featured the logos of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and UBS. The group is said to comprise representatives from 13 banks including Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and Wachovia, in addition to the four mentioned earlier.
Chan, who is also the chairperson of the Women’s Coalition in Hong Kong, told Fridae that she hopes that local banks and other companies are motivated by the show of support towards the LGBT community at large and LGBT employees by the foreign banks – many of whom have implemented workplace diversity and anti-discrimination policies.
Following the successful campaign this year to have same-sex couples covered under the Domestic Violence Ordinance, the next item on the agenda is to have sexual orientation covered under Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination legislation. Activists from campaigned for anti-discrimination provisions since the mid 1990s but have continuously faced strong opposition from right-wing Christian groups.
November 9, 2009 – Other Sheep
Hong Kong Gay Flotilla 2009
by Felix in Southeast Asia
Hong Kong has just had its second annual pride parade on November 1, 2009, just a day after the Taipei pride march that recorded the largest number of marchers ever in the history of Asia’s pride parade in which 25,000 people turned out to show their pride and solidarity. It was the first pride march for me and my partner.
The parade themed "Be Proud! Be Yourself!" received wide publicity around the world. Even if nothing had changed in terms of public policy, at the very least, the parade achieved the objective of coming out loud and proud to the world in greater visibility. The aim of the parade was to raise awareness and promote understanding of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons besides bolstering the courage and confidence of the LGBTQ communities themselves.
Hong Kong’s second pride parade recorded a total of 1800 participants, nearly doubled the number of marchers last year, thanks to parade director Connie Chan and her dedicated team of committee including members from the Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Midnight Blue, and Gay Harmony (counseling hotline). This year, renowned Hong Kong film director Ann Hui was conferred the title of the first Rainbow Ambassador. Ann has pledged to lobby for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong.
November 10, 2009 – Other Sheep
Hong Kong Pride Parade 2009
by Felix of Southeast Asia
Hong Kong has just had its second annual pride parade on November 1, 2009, just a day after the Taipei pride march that recorded the largest number of marchers ever in the history of Asia’s pride parade in which 25,000 people turned out to show their pride and solidarity. It was the first pride march for me and my partner.
The parade themed “Be Proud! Be Yourself!” received wide publicity around the world. Even if nothing had changed in terms of public policy, at the very least, the parade achieved the objective of coming out loud and proud to the world in greater visibility. The aim of the parade was to raise awareness and promote understanding of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons besides bolstering the courage and confidence of the LGBTQ communities themselves.
Hong Kong’s second pride parade recorded a total of 1800 participants, nearly doubled the number of marchers last year, thanks to parade director Connie Chan and her dedicated team of committee including members from the Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Midnight Blue, and Gay Harmony (counseling hotline).
This year, renowned Hong Kong film director Ann Hui was conferred the title of the first Rainbow Ambassador. Ann has pledged to lobby for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong.
December 18, 2009 – Fridae
Hong Kong’s domestic violence law to cover gay partners after year-long battle
by News Editor
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Wednesday passed an amendment to the domestic violence law to extend its provisions to same-sex couples.
From January 1, same-sex couples in Hong Kong will be covered under the territory’s domestic violence law after a year-long debate. The government first submitted a proposal in August 2008 to extend the scope of the law to cover to former spouses or cohabitants, same-sex couples as well as immediate and extended family members. The same-sex couples part of the amendment was however met with fierce opposition from conservative Christian groups and some lawmakers who argued that the move would promote same-sex relationships and a step towards recognising same-sex unions.
During that time, local LGBT groups including Women’s Coalition Hong Kong, Hong Kong Ten Per Cent Club, Rainbow Hong Kong and Rainbow Action had actively campaigned for the amendment and protested against certain legislators who opposed the amendment. The amendment when enacted will allow victims of violence in a same-sex cohabitation relationship to seek legal remedies and apply for court injunctions to prohibit abusers from entering or remaining in their residences. The law does not confer any legal status to same-sex relationships. Currently, the law covers (different-sex) married couples and heterosexual cohabitants.
According to reports, lawmakers only reached consensus only after the government agreed to rename the law currently known as Domestic Violence Ordinance to Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance, so as not to be perceived to be conferring any legal status to same-sex relationships.
A press release (Civil remedies against molestation to be extended to same-sex cohabitants) issued by the Labour and Welfare Bureau on Jun 3, 2009 explained: "This is to highlight that the amended DVO is also applicable to persons in cohabitation relationships, that victims of ‘domestic violence’ and ‘cohabitation relationships violence’ alike will be afforded protection under the new law and that ‘domestic violence’ and ‘cohabitation relationships violence’ are two different categories with no inter-relationship.
"The bill represents the Government’s best endeavour in reaching a viable solution acceptable to all. We have struck a reasonable and pragmatic balance in addressing the concerns of the related groups," Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said.