Some 5,000 anti-gay protesters from Christian right groups converged outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters in Tamar, Central on Sunday, Jan 13, to rally against the enactment of anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ individuals. Gay rights supporters and members of the Narrow Road Church, a local anti-establishment church, counter protested at the same location. On another front, Hong Kong legislator Cyd Ho (何秀蘭) started the Big Love Alliance (大愛同盟), an advocacy group in favour of equal rights for LGBTQ individuals.
The intense tussle between groups for and against LGBTQ rights come as gay rights groups are lobbying the Government to conduct a public consultation on the need to enact legislation to safeguard equal opportunities and the basic rights of people of different sexual orientations.
Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Chun-Ying (C.Y.) Leung (梁振英) is due to present his first Policy Address to the Legislative Council, Hong Kong's semi-democratic law-making body on Wednesday, Jan 16. It has been widely reported in the local press that Leung will include the enactment of anti-discrimination legislation in his policy agenda to boost his public standing. However, Regina Ip (葉劉淑儀) leaked the news last week that protection for sexual minorities will not feature on this year's policy address due to opposition from members of the establishment.
On Monday, Jan 13, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen (譚志源) also dampened expectations by stating that same-sex marriage will not be achieved in the near future.
The religious rally on Sunday was organised by Yan Fook Church, a subsidiary of the Evangelical Free Church of China (EFCC). The theme of the rally was to protect the freedom of expression and faith against possible infringement caused by anti-discrimination legislation.
One of the main arguments made by religious groups in Hong Kong against legislation to protect sexual minorities is that such legislation would necessarily curtail freedom of expression and faith, resulting in 'reverse discrimination'. According to flyers, the rally called on participants to “pray for guidance to those afflicted with homosexuality, and comfort for those who suffered from reverse discrimination.” The Hong Kong Police and the organisers estimated attendance at the rally at 5,000 and 50,000 respectively.
However, it is uncertain if everyone at the rally were against the government enacting legislation to protect sexual minorities.
Gay activist Billy Leung, who talked to some protestors at the rally, found that their motivation for attending the rally varies. “A young woman stated that she is attending the rally to protest against ‘extremism and confusion’ while a middle-aged woman says she wants to protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a women, but also read from a leaflet arguing for protection for sexual minorities”, Leung told this reporter.
Reggie Ho, chairman of the Pink Alliance, commented that the protestor's concern for freedom of religion and expression does not stand. “Past equal opportunities ordinances in Hong Kong made special provisions to accommodate all sectors of society. For example, under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, churches would not be forced to ordain female priests.
He added: “The whole point of consultation is to provide a platform for interested parties to air their views. To oppose consultation is to advocate the continuation of the status quo, a situation in which the basic rights of LGBTQ individuals are violated. Consultation is the logical step forward.”
A counter-rally was organised by the Narrow Road Church, an anti-establishment church based in Jordan, Hong Kong. Attendance of the counter-rally was estimated at between 10 to 100 people.
Yan Fook Church is a fast growing evangelical church in Hong Kong with around 5,000 members. It offers church groups targeted at various demographics including mothers, teenagers, university students, couples, and the elderly. It owns its stand-alone premise in Kwai Tsing, Kowloon. According to a scanned copy of a programme sheet from the rally, the event costs a total of HK$450,000 (US$58,000). The Narrow Church was started in 2010 as a Christian protest group against perceived collusion between the government and the commercial sector in Hong Kong. It was a supporter Occupy Hong Kong in 2011.
Big Love Alliance launched
Big Love Alliance's Facebook campaign features a host of gay and
mainstream celebrities including Mr Gay Hong Kong Hei Hei (top, left),
pop singer and actor Leon Lai (top, right) and Gigi Leung (bottom, right).
In another development, Hong Kong legislator Cyd Ho launched the Big Love Alliance last week in anticipation of the government's omitting protection for sexual minorities in the upcoming policy address. Apart from Ho, the founding members of the alliance include Hong Kong's first openly gay legislator Raymond Chen (陳志全), queer canto-pop stars Denise Ho (何韻詩) and Anthony Wong (黃耀明), and human rights lawyer Michael Vidler. The aim of the group is to “push for legislation to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination, and to answer the misinformation put about concerning ‘reverse discrimination’”, says Vidler.
The group's first Facebook campaign – a virtual rally of supporters of equal rights for sexual minorities – was launched over the weekend. In the campaign, supporters from all over the world photographed themselves holding up placards with the message 'support sexual minorities, fight against discrimination' ('撐同志反歧視') and posted the pictures on Facebook. Ideas for future activities include organising a photography competition and shooting a short film portraying discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.