As LGBT visibility has increased in Hong Kong, so have fears of a homophobic backlash. In 2005, the government met LGBT groups to discuss the possibility of legislating against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This prompted the conservative Hong Kong Alliance for Family to publish a four-page advertisement opposing any legislation in Ming Pao. The Society for Truth and Light also organised a letter-writing campaign to protest against it.
It was against this background that Hong Kong’s first LGBT parade was held on the International Day Against Homophobia in May that year.
“This was the first time homosexuals had been discriminated against in such an outspoken way, it had never been so obvious before. It was a real blow to Hong Kong’s LGBT community,” says Yeo Wai-wai, a committee member of Hong Kong Pride Parade.
Only 300 people turned up for the first parade. Masks were prepared for participants but they decided not to wear them. Three years later, the first official Pride Parade involved more than 1,000 participants. In 2015, the number had increased nearly tenfold to 9,500.
At the beginning of this year, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) released a comprehensive report, “Study on Legislating against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status”. The study indicates public support for anti-discrimination legislation has increased from 28.7 per cent to 55.7 per cent in the 10 years since the “Survey on Public Attitudes towards Homosexuals” was conducted by the Home Affairs Bureau in 2006.
At the same time, 41 per cent of those who had contact with homosexuals thought the discrimination experienced by LGBT people was either serious or very serious, compared with just under 30 per cent in 2006.
Yeo says that despite greater acceptance of the LGBT community, discrimination is still widespread. She says she was rejected for a job at an advertising agency when the director learned she was a lesbian.
Tin Fung, a representative of Rainbow of Hong Kong, the only LGBT Community Centre in Hong Kong, says: “If you choose to be frank [about your sexual orientation or gender identity], you will cause more trouble for yourself in Hong Kong society.”
Tin, who is now 27, studied education at university. He says his professor at the time warned him not to disclose his sexual orientation during his internship at a secondary school. The professor said he might not be able to graduate if he was rejected by the employer because of his gay identity. Tin felt his sexual orientation should not have any bearing on his ability to graduate and that was a case of discrimination.
Both Tin and Yeo, principal organisers of Hong Kong Pride Parade, believe LGBT individuals should not have to hide.
“In this world, if LGBT people are not allowed to reveal their sexual orientation, it’s no different from putting the Jews in concentration camps,” says Yeo.
Despite the heightened public awareness and support for LGBT, opposition seems to be consistent over the years. The 2006 Survey on Public Attitudes Towards Homosexuals found 34.5 per cent of the respondents opposed anti-discrimination legislation; the percentage is 34.8 per cent this year.
Some opposition groups have been more vocal about LGBT issues, including the anti-gay-rights organisation, Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group (which uses the perhaps unfortunate acronym SODO). The group frequently criticises LGBT people on Facebook and accuses them of creating health hazards, spreading incorrect values, and disturbing social order.
“I have my own values. You should let me speak,” says Roger Wong Wai-ming, 52, convener of the Family School SODO Concern Group. According to Wong, the anti-discrimination law would hinder the freedom of speech granted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.