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26 Mar 2009

Assaults by Hong Kong's religious right on HIV NGOs and LGBT groups

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.'

The 'Flying High Landing Safe' which uses a harm reduction strategy to reduce the risk of HIV infection was voluntarily suspended in January after Democrat Party Legco Member Nelson Wong Shing-chi appears to have complained about the site to the Secretary for Justice, alleging that the AIDS Trust Fund was using the Government's money to build a website to promote drug use.
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.

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-03-26 19:15  
Regrettably the incidents described do seem to constitute a systematic assault on basic freedoms, and the capacity of the religious right to mobilize the institutional arms of the state

However, on a positive note, I want to salute the remarkable efforts of HK's HIV and LGBT NGOs to keep the struggle going and to really promote love "in a (politically) cold climate"

They fully deserve our support!!! Take a bow...you all richly deserve it!
2. 2009-03-26 19:18  
Maybe it's also worth establishing if the fundamentalists in HK get any funding from, say, American fundamentalist groups. AIDS organisations there might then have something to say about it.
3. 2009-03-26 19:26  
There's nothing fundamental and Christian about these groups. It's all about control. The kind of "christianity" we see these days are NOT Christianity of Christ but of a perverted movement that seeks relentlessly to recruit, convert and control their victims under the guise of salvation.

True fundamental (basic) Christianity dun really exist anymore. Just look at those PTL groups where their own leaders get outed by media for committing the very sins they condemn and then get away publicly through the usual forgive me bs. Shams and hypocrites.

LGBT groups better wake up and mobilize to unite quickly, or face the revival attacks we see happening from Prop 8 to S377A.

Self professed x'tians=Wolves in sheep's clothing!
Comment #4 was deleted by its author
5. 2009-03-26 19:42  
Post #4 steveuk says (Posted : 26 March 2009 19:38) : "And, for some of them at least, making pots and pots of money from the gullible. "


And, (ALL) of them at least, making pots and pots of money from the gullible.

This is clearly implied, once they get control. ;)
Comment #6 was deleted by its author
Comment #7 was deleted by its author
Comment #8 was deleted by its author
9. 2009-03-26 19:49  
Post #4 steveuk says (Posted : 26 March 2009 19:38) :

Post #3 jammyboi says (Posted : 26 March 2009 19:26) :"There's nothing fundamental and Christian about these groups. It's all about control..."

And, for some of them at least, making pots and pots of money from the gullible.

Maybe if members were asked to directly tithe 10% of their income to proper charities combatting AIDS, cancer or poverty, rather than to a particular "church" to fund a " pastor's " sometimes extravagant lifestyle (tax free of course), they might be less hypocritical.
10. 2009-03-26 20:03  
Why nowadays these people got nothing to do but keep harassing PLUs? Why ? Tired of preaching and not getting the desired outcome? Hence changed target to PLUs so that other people are aware of their existence? How pathetic.

To all PLUs...I think we should pity them....embrace these POOR SOULS!
11. 2009-03-26 20:07  
"Maybe if members were asked to directly tithe 10% of their income to proper charities...."

God forbid!!! That would not be very "christian" to deprive those who seek to "serve' their god, a basic luxury...err...I meant salary. No, no. It will never work. If that ever happens, all these churches will need a government bailout-give or take a billion....never mind the lost souls too, to boot...;P
12. 2009-03-27 02:20  
IF this is true -and there is NO reason not to believe it- and can be concretely demonstrated by statistical proof of year on year governmental scrutiny, record-keeping etc. then one possible response is given right here by Fridae: as much mainstream MEDIA coverage as possible on the investigating agencies themselves to uncover the pattern of harassment. So when the phone rings, schedule an appt. with the govt. agency, then immiediately call a reporter and invite him/herto "sit in" on the meeting as well. SCMP should jump on something like this. Anyone in the community got contacts with them? Then put together a package of exactly HOW MUCH such wasteful investigations are costing TAXPAYERS and hit people with the facts in the place that hurts them the most: THEIR WALLETS! When public citizenry start doing the math and adding up how much the religious right's ALARMIST scare tactics are costing them, then some pressure can be levied for them to either 1) CEASE and DESIST or 2) PAY FOR the investigations they are demanding out of their own general coffers. Just a thought, and an admittedly very American approach to the problem, which may or may not be culturally viable here in HK. Keep up this kind of journalism Fridae. We need to know this stuff.
13. 2009-03-27 08:48  
poster #6, David29 asks why the religious cults keep harassing the PLU's. That's a very good question. In civilized/developing industrialized countries it's no longer PC (politically correct) to pick on race/ethnicity, the homeless or terminally ill, those with leprocy, the genetically impaired, those who are physically challenged, women, children, or even other religious cults. The ONLY identifiable minority group left on the list to hate and oppress, which has strategically attractive and distinct vulnerabilities and is still unprotected in most countries by equal legislation is US. So, we are easy targets. The religious cults (like the catholics, and fundies) forget that WE DO NOT NEED TO RECRUIT for new members. New HOMOS are born every day, to the tune of 10%+. Whereas, they MUST RECRUIT and BRAINWASH in order to attract new members and replace those who have left the cults after awakening to the real truths. Let's continue our struggle and quest for equality. The religious cults are fighting a losing battle. Their "values" and "objectives" are already dead and irrelevant...they just don't know it yet.
14. 2009-03-27 10:06  
be strong, bro! remember to hit the SNAKEs by their head. ^_-
and those tactic are SO typical of american extreme christians, bashing of minority is apparently an easiest (and fastest) way to get MONEY from their fellow belivers. now texas are running out of money, they're coming for china/hong kong!.......
Comment #15 was deleted by its author
16. 2009-03-27 17:50  
Holy Jesus Maria, the fundies have indeed relocated to Asia!!!!! :(
Some posters below have questioned why
so-called 'Christians' who must have been well aware of the suffering their Great Lord Jesus went through can still harass us PLUs without any remorse, shame or conscience.
Two words: money & economics.
Just observe them. Very carefully.
And of course, the prerequisite fundamental
(how ironic) exploitation on the fears, prejudices & ignorance of the general populace. Combine these together & the result will be a potent mix of unquestioning, eager "army of god' lambs & their charismatic Gurus or Masters orchestrating their every move, ready for command and/or disposal at the drop of a hat. Come to think of it,
not much different from how militant Islamists operate :p
17. 2009-03-27 19:42  
Thank you fundies. Your acts prove that Jesus is a Homosexual.

Criminalizing homosexuals = criminalizing Jesus
Killing homosexuals = killing Jesus

Not all who called Jesus lord lord shall be saved. They will say: 'lord, we perform miracles in Your name, cast out demons and perform wonders.' Jesus will tell them: 'depart from Me, you workers of iniquities, I do not know you.' Their end shall be on their own heads.

The devil is afraid. His days are numbered. He uses God's people to kill God Himself by influencing the secular government, just like the Jews in Old Testament times, criminalized and cruxify Jesus via the secular Roman government. History repeat itself.

But this can be good after all. This forces many homosexuals to think clearly, to know that we need to come out. We cannot hide in our closet anymore. God let it happen for our own good. At least we know the truth. The truth is hidden from our eye for the past 2009 years! My goodness!

We ougth to close down all gay pubs, all gays walk out in pairs of couples, into brought daylight. No need to be afraid of the fundies, cos' we know the Truth, that Jesus is a Homosexual. If God is with us, who can be against us? Just don't do stupid thing like get into heterosexal marriage or prosmicuity.

Homosexuality is divine. Homsexuality is not a sin. He who has ears let him hear!
18. 2009-03-28 00:56  
All of this anti-religious TALK and church bashing LANGUAGE, while perhaps making the posters "feel better" is what we call "PREACHING to the CHOIR!" It is of no use to us in here in Hong Kong where this is happening. Save it for OPRAH!
19. 2009-03-28 01:17  
What a disgraceful waste of public money and efforts. These christians should be ashamed of themselves for wasting the government's money and resources to further their religious goals and impose their beliefs on others. What they have done is hijacked the public machine for their petty dogmatic goals - at a time when the public machine should be better wielded to tackle real life problems like poverty, disease control, public health, education, jobs creation etc.

Then again, such christians have never been about the good of mankind, of caring for or loving their human brethrens; but rather ALL about imposing their beliefs on others, to subjugate, control and limit.

Shame shame shame.

Then again as post #13 said, none of what we say here matters jack. Perhaps none of what we say anywhere matters because the problem with religious fervours is - it closes minds to any real discussions. If you cannot discusses an issue with someone, you have no hope in hell of making any difference.

Perhaps there is an express line in hell mark Fundamentalist Christians Only... I would like to think so, small comfort tho that is for the here and now.
20. 2009-03-29 20:57  
the pop singer Prince once sang out.."Leaders stand up organize" Athiests, Pagans, Democrats, Gays Rationalists, Agnostics, Environmentalists should all come to gether to stamp out the rise of religious Tyranny by the 3 desert religions
21. 2009-03-30 13:27  
Why is it every where in the world always this Christian fundamentalists so much enthusiactically against homosexuality?
22. 2009-03-30 22:22  
Post #15 aztlan_oz says (Posted : 29 March 2009 20:57) :

the pop singer Prince once sang out.."Leaders stand up organize" Athiests, Pagans, Democrats, Gays Rationalists, Agnostics, Environmentalists should all come to gether to stamp out the rise of religious Tyranny by the 3 desert religions

Sounds cool. What is the name of that song aztlan?
23. 2009-03-31 12:42  
As someone who works in the HIV sector in another country on sometimes controversial topics, I can tell you that it REALLY helps to receive letters of support -- then we can say well yes some members of the community had a problem but others have thanked us and said the message made an impact.
24. 2009-04-02 23:09  
Which brings me to a warning for those that give money to solicitors on the street or to those that ask/seek funds via the office or organisations--


These fundalmentalists pose as charitable organizations and individuals soliciting funds which then may be used to oppose changes you want or back fundalmentalist campaigns which are detrimental to overall rights.

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