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25 Jun 2008

Back in business: Hong Kong's LGBT coordinating body

Hong Kong's Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting, the coalition representing all Hong Kong's LGBT groups, has come back to life after a several year hiatus. Nigel Collett finds out the changes that has taken place and what's next for the coalition.

Several years ago, Hong Kong's Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM), the coalition representing over 20 of Hong Kong's LGBT groups, ceased to meet. The reasons for this were several: a lack of sufficient committed members; policy disagreements; some apathy across the community; absence of a unifying cause; all these have been cited from time to time as reasons for the meeting's demise. Whatever the causes, the resulting absence of a central organisation to coordinate the activities of the many LGBT groups in Hong Kong has long been felt. The community, in the absence of some coordination, has tended to revert to 'communities', as the groups diverged down their individual paths, English speakers from Chinese, men from women, the politically committed from the socially driven, the young from the old, and so on and so forth. This has become particularly noticeable this year as the groups organising the LGBT events that have been successfully held in Hong Kong have been criticised for not getting their message out; the events have not brought out as much support as they deserved and might have achieved had they been more widely publicised.

Above: A rally held on May 18 to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia in Hong Kong (Photo courtesy of IDAHO HK committee) . The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting, the coalition representing all Hong Kong's LGBT groups, hopes to link local LGBT organisations and develop public relations campaigns to mobilise the LGBT community and to influence public opinion.
The old TCJM also had organisational problems which prevented its reaching out to all sectors of the LGBT community. This was principally a language issue, as business was conducted in Cantonese and written Chinese, which tended to prevent the expatriate community being involved.

Now this has changed. On June 14, a group of representatives of many of the LGBT organisations active in Hong Kong met and agreed to resurrect the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM). They will do so under its old name; Tongzhi is increasingly the locally preferred term for all shade of things 'queer', or LGBT; it is much used in China and is seen as having the advantage of avoiding foreign connotations and the growing acronyms and abbreviations of the ever widening queer world. The group will meet bi-monthly and operate bilingually, drawing its information form the organisations represented on it and using their widespread links to get the word out.

The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting includes representatives of as many organisations which were members of the old TCJM as wish to take part. It will be chaired by Reggie Ho, coordinator of Horizons, and so far has representation from AIDS Concern, Amnesty International's LGBT wing, the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, Fruits in Suits, Horizons, Les Peches, the Ten Percent Club and the Women's Coalition. The Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, Queer Sisters and others are expected to join soon. Medeleine Mok of Amnesty International has been appointed Information Officer, and the Meeting will be advised by the solicitor Michael Vidler, who won the recent Hong Kong cases involving Billy Leung and Siu Cho.

The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting's aims include linking all the Tongzhi organisations operating in Hong Kong; providing a forum for the discussion of LGBT issues; providing a resource for Tongzhi information and expertise, and a network to acquire and disseminate it; providing a focal point for the Government and other bodies; developing strategies on Tongzhi issues; assisting with and implementing campaigns; and developing public relations campaigns to mobilise the LGBT community and to influence public opinion.

The Meeting represented the LGBT community at the June 20 meeting of the Sexual Minorities Forum (SMF), the Government sponsored body from which the LGBT members walked out in April 2007 over the Government's inclusion on that body of an 'ex-gay ministry' group named New Creation. The SMF has now been removed from responsibility of the Home Affairs Department and placed under the remit of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs. This, coupled with the changing legal situation in Hong Kong following Mr Justice Hartmann's ruling (in his recent judicial review of the case brought by Siu Cho against the Broadcasting Authority) that all Hong Kong legislation referring to sexuality must be deemed also to refer to sexual orientation, has created a favourable climate to resume open discussions with Government on LGBT issues.

The Meeting will also seek to play a role in ensuring that the proposed legislation to cover domestic violence in Hong Kong extends its protection to same sex couples. This legislation is now passing through the Legislative Council and the LGBT community's views are receiving much support. The TCJM will seek to take advantage of these issues to pursue issues of discrimination in Hong Kong over the medium term.

Hong Kong

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