Hong Kong: One territory, two attitudes on equality

Even in Asia, where the level of LGBT acceptance can vary and change with alarming regularity, Hong Kong is a contradictory beast. In 1991, the territory finally ditched British anti-buggery laws that still dog former colonies like Singapore and Malaysia. Today, Asia’s “world city” embraces its queer celebrities and supports a sizable calendar of LGBT events.

Privately many Hong Kongers face enormous pressure to conform. It’s a common dilemma in Northeast Asia, one that in Hong Kong skews the queer bar scene heavily toward ex-pats and visitors. Despite the 1991 reform, an equal age of consent was not established until 2006, and anti-discrimination laws remain a matter of interpretation rather than being absolute. In this deeply traditional society, less than a third of the population supports the legalization of same-sex marriage. In 2012, property developer Cecil Chao offered 500 million Hong Kong dollars ($75 million Canadian) to any man who could woo his lesbian daughter into marriage, and while mere financial mortals may not be throwing around that kind of offer, the underlying attitude is a common one.

Yet three quarters of Hong Kongers also say they support equal rights for same-sex couples, and most are very accepting of LGBT media personalities. While same-sex unions are still not recognized, transgender citizens were finally granted the right to marry an opposite-sex partner in 2013. It seems that in the land of “one country, two systems,” it’s a case of “one territory, two attitudes” on equality. Read More