Just 2 weeks after we’re back from Sydney Mardi Gras, we received an invitation from Pride & Prejudice 2017 organizers to join their annual conference in Hong Kong. After getting some day offs from our day job (yes, we are volunteers), we ping-ed our friends who are also volunteering/working for LGBTQ organizations there and also did some quick research on the local LGBTQ scene and development, then off we flew and escaped the cold chills of Shanghai’s never-ending winter.
Hong Kong is still dynamic despite the recent economic slowdown, so as voices from the LGBTQ community calling for anti-discrimination laws and equal rights. Hong Kong decriminalized homosexual relations in 1991 after inheriting the colonial laws from the UK. However, an unequal age of consent was established, 21 for gay men and 16 for heterosexuals. This was later appealed in 2005 successfully, an equal age of consent of 16 for both. Currently, there is no law against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in Hong Kong.
On the evening of our arrival, a seminar about Untapped Opportunities and the Business Cases for LGBTI Inclusion was hosted by the Gender Studies Department of Chinese University of Hong Kong, with special guest Professor Lee Badgett from University of Massachusetts Amherst which was held at Société Générale (Three Pacific Place). Audiences were mainly academia and from the finance industry, hence focused more on the economy growth from diversity and inclusion, and the pink dollar. The data presented sparked a debate on inclusion policies versus economic growth which is not always relatively increasing.
Just last month we’re introduced to Prof. TK from the Sociology Department of Hong Kong University for his LGBTQ in Greater China research and scheduled to meet in June, but we took this opportunity to visit ahead. As we entered the HKU campus, some students with rainbow info boards caught my eyes. It was Social Work Week in HKU and they have a student-led LGBTQ group who is openly doing advocacies on school campus! In our conversation with TK, he mentioned that his research will soon be published and hopefully useful to the public.
We’ve also met with Hong Kong Pride Parade (http://www.hkpride.net), sharing our experiences and challenges. In our meeting with AIDS Concern (http://aidsconcern.org.hk), we were amazed by their collaboration with college students and creativity, sending powerful messages to increase awareness and protection against HIV/AIDS. Prof. SYT got us excited when we learned more about their Gender Studies Programme at CUHK (http://www.gender.cuhk.edu.hk) and potential future collaboration with them. We’ve met with Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (http://www.hklgff.hk) organizer JL in Mardi Gras Film Festival and this time we met with his team, seeking opportunities to strengthen exchanges of queer films in the Greater China region.
One of the key highlights from the trip was the LGBT in the City Tour, an awesome opportunity to learn from the tour guide and participants about LGBT history and current status in Hong Kong. We started at The Court of Final Appeal Building with a brief history of LGBTQ related cases, accompanied by the rainbow lights projected on the HSBC headquarters building. Then we went nearby the Mandarin Oriental Hotel where the famous and openly gay artist Leslie Cheung committed suicide due to depression. We also visited previous sites of popular gay bars at Lan Kwai Fong and meeting grounds of gay men during the 80’s and 90’s. The tour ended at the signature rainbow stairs near the new LGBTQ bars zone at Sheung Wan.
For the second year, the Pride and Prejudice 2017 – Agent of Change, organized by The Economist, continued to bring some of the most influential business decision-makers, government policy-makers, and innovative thinkers from across the globe, discussing an unbiased, content-driven and business-oriented agenda for LGBT diversity and inclusion. Former speaker of Women Up! 2015 in Shanghai, Clarice Kan, from Google, thinks that millennial may have liberal views but they are not the same as understanding what inclusion & diversity in workplace means, during her panel about Millennial as Catalysts of Change.
During the panel Breaking Down Religious and Political Barriers, Pauline Ong, Executive Pastor of Free Community Church Singapore said My sexuality and spirituality must coexist or I cannot exist – what I have is a gift! Companies also need to “come out” and do so boldly – now is the time, added Parmesh Shahani, Head of Godrej India Culture Lab. Louise Chamberlain, Country Director of UNDP Vietnam also echoed that Global businesses play an important development role when bringing inclusive policies to local markets on the panel about Activating Including – Turning Policy into Practice.
Woman, Chinese, Lesbian legislator in Australia. Penny Wong emphasized that Parents can be the biggest allies and advocate for LGBT inclusion, during her live session on the panel Allies in Diversity. At the final panel Charting New Routes Towards LGBQ Inclusion, daughter of Hong Kong Tycoon and Executive Vice-Chairman of Cheuk Nang, Gigi Chao said that It’s up to businesses that have a conscience to do something to uphold human dignity, after her brief update on her father still being disapproval about her getting married to her wife in 2012.
Towards the end of the conference, during the handover from Hong Kong to London, audiences at both locations cheered when the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel who is openly gay, said I have one life and I don’t want to hide it. How can people trust you if you hide things? He further added that Being different doesn’t mean you can’t be successful; I’m not the gay Prime Minister, I’m the Prime Minister and I’m gay.
In comparison with Hong Kong, Shanghai/China LGBTQ movements seems to be more closely tied to the community, focusing more on self- and family acceptance and community visibility while businesses and legal measures drive most of the discussions in Hong Kong, motivating us to continue to reach out to businesses for more involvement. Hong Kong may seem to be more open and have higher acceptance but it isn’t quite there yet. Community leaders in Hong Kong are also considering to revisit the fundamentals as many from the post-colonial society is still holding tight to conservative values.
Later that evening, the Tongzhi Literary Group (http://www.tlghk.org/) held a talk on Speculative Fiction and Marriage Equality with guest speakers novelist Edmund Price and Prof. Lee Badgett. Our whirlwind tour in Hong Kong ended with icing on the cake when we met with the bidding team of Gay Games XI Hong Kong 2022 (http://www.gaygameshk2022.com/), who made it into the final three against Guadalajara, Mexico and Washington DC, United States. It will be a public event that the region needs to increase visibility of LGBTQ and push movements forward.
With ShanghaiPRIDE back this June, The Time is Now to Come Together!