Thu, May 23, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Uproar over ad with gay couple shows Hong Kong still lags in LGBT rights


Two barefoot men dressed conservatively in dark suits stroll hand-in-hand on a beach in a print advertisement that is part of a new Cathay Pacific Airways campaign. The tag line for the ad featuring the same-sex couple reads: “Move Beyond Labels.’’

That seemingly tame request set off a controversy in Hong Kong, where the territory’s subway and airport operators initially declined to run the ad, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

With critics vowing social media action to shame subway operator MTR Corp, the government-backed company and the airport authority released statements distancing themselves from the decision.

The Airport Authority (AA) Hong Kong said in a statement that the ad was “not in infringement of the AA’s established guidelines on advertisements.”

MTR said in a separate statement that it rejects gender or sexual orientation discrimination.

The ad agency, JCDecaux, said that “the design can be posted at MTR stations.’’

The initial decision to censor the ad is the latest example of the gap between Hong Kong and many other places when it comes to LGBT rights.

While the territory debates whether it is appropriate to show two men holding hands, Taiwan on Friday last week became the first Asian country to legalize marriage equality.

Still, there are some signs of growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in Hong Kong.

Ocean Park, a theme park that is the biggest local competitor to Hong Kong Disneyland, in March published an ad showing two men in boxer shorts and sleeveless white undershirts embracing, with one closing his eyes as the other kisses his neck.

The ad was an homage to the 1997 film Happy Together, a same-sex romance starring Leslie Cheung (張國榮), a gay man who was one of the territory’s biggest stars before his death in 2003.

Advocates have launched multiple legal challenges to promote civil rights in Hong Kong, where there is more recognition of the importance of LGBT rights than in other parts of China.

The campaign is building on last year’s landmark case in which a Hong Kong court ruled that foreign spouses of gay expatriate workers were entitled to the same residential visas as foreigners in heterosexual marriages.

“We were very encouraged” by the case, said Gigi Chao (趙式芝), vice chairman of Hong Kong-based property developer Cheuk Nang Holdings.

Chao, a lesbian, is a board member of advocacy group BigLove Alliance, which launched the social media campaign against MTR.

“The fight for equality will be spearheaded by what happens in the courtroom,” she said.

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