Is Hong Kong realising its handicap in the claim to be “Asia’s World City”?
Hong Kong has fallen behind key competing International Financial Centres when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Meanwhile, Brand Hong Kong seeks to promote Hong Kong as a free and dynamic society where creativity and entrepreneurship converge. Facing fierce competition for the best talent to recruit and retain, attitudes in Hong Kong may be changing.
A Cathay Pacific ad featuring a same-sex couple with tag line ‘Move Beyond Labels’ caused controversy in Hong Kong, with subway and airport operators initially declining to display the ad, and both later backing down after a concerted social media campaign.
These initial decisions to censor a same-sex themed ad provides an example of the LGBTQ rights gap between Hong Kong and many other important cities, including key competing International Financial Centres – such as London and New York, where same-sex marriage is legal – and now also in Taiwan, which recently became the first in Asia to legislate to create marriage equality. In contrast, Hong Kong is experiencing controversy over two men holding hands with an encouragement to Move Beyond Labels.
However, there are signs that the former British colony is seeking to move beyond its colonial era legacy, including via a number of court cases and an important court ruling which has established that a foreigner in a same-sex union with an expatriate worker is entitled to the same residential visas as foreigners in heterosexual marriages. The financial industry news service Bloomberg reported that Gigi Chao, vice chairman of Hong Kong-based property developer Cheuk Nang Holdings and board member of advocacy group BigLove Alliance, which launched the Move Beyond Labels social-media campaign, said – “We were very encouraged [by the case and that] the fight for equality will be spearheaded by what happens in the courtroom.’’
In the fierce competition for the best talent, and the widely-cited and accepted business case for LGBTQ diversity and inclusion, and to make more credible Hong Kong’s aspiration to be perceived as a free and dynamic society where creativity and entrepreneurship converge, attitudes and LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong may finally be changing. In the context of the competition between Hong Kong and Singapore – with its even more draconian anti-LGBTQ legislation – a more forward-thinking Hong Kong could likely gain a clear advantage over Singapore.