Skip to content

Something urgent? Call us now! (852) 3416 1711

Equality drama reflects real life

By Gabriella Chan

Hong Kong, 17 November 2022: The staging of an acclaimed play, We Are Gay, at the West Kowloon Cultural District’s Xiqu Centre last week coincided with another landmark moment for Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ community. While the drama – a highlight of the 2022 Hong Kong Arts Festival – was being acted out in front of large and appreciative audiences, myself included, it also provided an appropriate backdrop to a court ruling which sustained the fight for same-sex marriage equality.

Three Court of Appeal judges granted activist Jimmy Sham’s application to take his attempt to win full rights for married same-sex partners to the Court of Final Appeal. In August, the same judges had ruled that marriage was the preserve of opposite-sex couples and that the government had no obligation to recognise same-sex unions. Last week, however, they declared Sham’s case had raised questions of great public importance which should be determined by this city’s highest court.

Human rights activist Sham – currently in custody facing subversion charges arising from an unofficial legislative primary election in 2020 – married his husband in the US in 2013. He applied for a judicial review in 2018, claiming Hong Kong was violating the Basic Law with its refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry and its failure to recognise foreign same-sex marriage. The Court of First Instance dismissed his application in September 2020 and this ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal three months ago.

While tempered with realism about the chances of success – the Court of Appeal last week said Sham’s submissions “are reasonably arguable, even though we do not consider the arguments to be particularly strong” – this latest ruling is welcome. It also underscores how the LGBTQ+ community has had to consistently resort to legal action to win equal rights concessions from the authorities, with landmark victories in matters such as taxation, inheritance rights and civil service benefits.

The government has yet to carry out a comprehensive review of its policies on same-sex unions. Yet there is growing evidence its conservative outlook is increasingly at odds with public opinion, especially that of younger citizens. A recent survey – commissioned by equal rights lobby group Pink Alliance and carried out by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute – revealed Hongkongers aged 18 to 40 are mostly supportive of LGBTQ+ equality.

Some 86% said they agreed LGBTQ+ people should be treated fairly and should not be discriminated against. In addition, 63% said this city should have legislation to prohibit discrimination against the community, while 75% said the government should legalise same-sex marriage. It is clear the majority of younger people believe unfair treatment of LGBTQ+ citizens is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ events in Hong Kong are thriving. Last month saw the latest edition of Pink Dot HK, themed “Express Yourself”, with more than 25 booths and 35 pop-up stores at the Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Centre. This past weekend, huge numbers attended Hong Kong Pride Parade’s Rainbow Market at D2 Place in Lai Chi Kok.

For the latter event, Pride Parade selected as their Rainbow Ambassador renowned playwright Candace Chong, the author of We Are Gay. Her play is a suspenseful tale of conflicting values between two generations of gay men. While it explores human nature in terms of love, desire, money, power and jealousy, it also conveys a powerful message about equality, highlighting the struggles and difficulties the LGBTQ+ community faces in Hong Kong. One of the main characters is asked whether he would like to marry his boyfriend and, if yes, whether this would be in the US or Taiwan. Pointedly, Hong Kong is not an option.

In her programme notes, Chong said the production was dedicated to “all our friends who are the same in nature but are not given equal rights”. On stage and in real life, the struggle continues.

Gabriella Chan is an Associate with BC&C. She focuses her practice on Family Law, being proficient in a wide range of matters arising from the matrimonial context, and is also active in the Hong Kong Family Law Association. She can be contacted at Gabriella@boasecohencollins.com.

37+ years of legal experience is just a click away.

Friendly and approachable, we are ready to answer your questions and offer you sound advice.

Contact us now

BC&C-contact-us

News & Knowledge

Learn more about what we do and what we say. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you receive our updates.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A reminder about wage obligations

By Alex Liu Hong Kong, 29 November 2022: The impact of Covid-19 on Hong Kong’s economy has been underscored by media stories about firms failing to pay wages on time and falling behind with pension fund contributions. But even in these difficult times, the government has made it clear employers are expected to meet their […]

Read more

BC&C duo are admitted as Solicitors

Hong Kong, 28 November 2022: There were scenes of celebration outside the High Court in Admiralty on Saturday as Nicole Chong and Kyle Ho became the latest talented legal professionals with Boase Cohen & Collins to be admitted as Solicitors in Hong Kong. Family, friends and work colleagues were on hand to share their landmark […]

Read more

Kicking Covid thoughts into touch

Doha, 23 November 2022: Brazilian football icon Pele popularised the phrase “the beautiful game” – o jogo bonito in his native Portuguese – although its exact origin is unclear. He had every reason to love his chosen sport: one of the finest players of all time, he won the World Cup on three occasions. His […]

Read more

Equality drama reflects real life

By Gabriella Chan Hong Kong, 17 November 2022: The staging of an acclaimed play, We Are Gay, at the West Kowloon Cultural District’s Xiqu Centre last week coincided with another landmark moment for Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ community. While the drama – a highlight of the 2022 Hong Kong Arts Festival – was being acted out […]

Read more

Gabriella Chan enhances BC&C team

Hong Kong, 10 November 2022: We are pleased to welcome experienced lawyer Gabriella Chan to Boase Cohen & Collins as a key addition to our Family Law team. Gabriella, who joins as an Associate, is proficient in a range of matters arising from the matrimonial context, including divorce and separation, children and financial applications, committal […]

Read more