Thu, Jul 05, 2018 - Page 1 News List

British lesbian wins spousal visa case in Hong Kong

AFP, HONG KONG

A British lesbian yesterday won the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her partner in a landmark decision by the top court in the territory, where same-sex unions are not recognized.

“QT,” who entered into a civil partnership in Britain in 2011 and moved to Hong Kong with her partner the same year, was backed by major financial institutions in her fight for visa rights in the economic powerhouse.

She was denied a dependent visa when she moved to Hong Kong after her partner got a job there and was forced to stay on as a visitor without the right to work.

The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal ended the protracted legal battle by ruling that it was counterproductive to only extend dependent work rights to straight couples.

“The ability to bring in dependents is an important issue for persons deciding whether to move to Hong Kong,” the court said.

It said employment visas are granted because someone “has the talent or skills deemed needed or desirable. Such a person could be straight or gay.”

Hong Kong does not recognize gay marriage or same-sex civil unions.

“Hopefully it will pave the way to change” and to the recognition of same-sex marriage, said QT’s lawyer, Michael Vidler.

“I was stunned,” a delighted QT told reporters by telephone after the verdict. “I was like wow, have I actually done it, have we actually got there, finally?”

“And then I was tearful with joy... This is all I wanted for seven years,” she said, adding that the recognition of her relationship made her feel “relevant and valuable, more than anything.”

Top financial institutions — including Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — publicly supported QT, saying diverse hiring practices were crucial to attracting and retaining top talent.

In an earlier statement delivered by her lawyer after the verdict, QT accused the government of treating her “like many thousands of other lesbian and gay people in Hong Kong, like a second class citizen because of my sexual orientation.”

In September last year she won her case at the Court of Appeal, which ruled that immigration authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers.”

However, that decision was challenged by the government and taken to the territory’s highest court, in what critics said was a disappointing backwards step.

During the case, Dinah Rose, representing QT, argued the couple have a “public, registered” and legal bond which is not recognized in Hong Kong and are therefore “placed in a significant disadvantage” compared with straight couples.

David Pannick, representing the government, told the court “marriage creates a status” which in itself justified different treatment for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.

Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker Ray Chan (陳志全) hailed the ruling as a “milestone.”

“The LGBT community, with myself included, is elated today over the Court of Final Appeal’s judgement,” said Chan, a pro-democracy politician.

“[They] should not be burdened with going through laborious legal and political processes to seek the rights that they should already enjoy as human beings,” Chan added.

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