Wed, Dec 07, 2016 - Page 6 News List

HSBC’s ‘rainbow’ lion statues start gay rights furor

ANIMAL ASPECT:A joint petition by groups against the reproductions said the rainbow colors emasculate and deprive the lions of all their ‘strength and stamina’

AFP, HONG KONG

A woman poses for a photograph between a pair of multicolored lion statues on display outside HSBC’s main office in Hong Kong yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A pair of lions painted in rainbow stripes displayed outside HSBC’s main office in Hong Kong have been slammed by anti-gay groups as activists in the territory call for more progress on equal rights.

Two plain bronze lions named Stephen and Stitt usually sit outside the office in the Central business district and have been joined by a pair of multicolored replicas as part of the bank’s “Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity” campaign in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The new statues were decorated by local artist Michael Lam (林煒燊) and are to be on display throughout this month.

“Having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our millions of customers in Hong Kong, and which draws on a wide range of perspectives, makes us better able to serve the whole community,” HSBC spokesman Adam Harper told reporters.

However, the lions have sparked a backlash from conservative sections of Hong Kong society, with some groups launching a joint petition against the artworks, calling them “disgusting.”

The petition was organized by Roger Wong (黃偉明), an outspoken figure against gay rights and the father of Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), who famously led the territory’s pro-democracy “Umbrella movement” in 2014.

It says that the statues are “causing annoyance to the feelings of many Hong Kong people, as well as trampling on the existing family values.”

The petition adds that the rainbow colors, symbolic of the LGBT community, are emasculating and deprive “all the strength and stamina of the original lions.”

Although Hong Kong is an international finance hub and thousands of people turned out for its annual pride parade last month, conservative groups regularly hit back at the promotion of what they see as an LGBT agenda.

The government has also been criticized by rights campaigners for a lack of anti-discrimination laws and little progress toward marriage equality.

However, passersby outside the HSBC building yesterday were overwhelmingly in favor of the statues, with some stopping to take photographs of the lions.

“A bank needs to be more inclusive rather than just cater to one group of people, so it’s actually good for the bank itself,” said Brian Yip, who also works in finance.

Visitors also voiced support.

“With the bank adopting this attitude, it shows mainstream society’s tolerance and support for these groups,” Beijing tourist Wendy Lee told reporters.

Pink Alliance member Billy Leung said Hong Kong must “up its game” on rights if it wants to attract the best talents and stay economically competitive.

“Our Asian neighbors such as Japan, Taiwan and even Vietnam are considering not only prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, but also offering benefits to same-sex couples,” Leung said.

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