One Mile at a Time writes about the controversy over Hong Kong’s airport and mass transit refusing to display a Cathay Pacific ad which depicts two men walking on the beach holding hands with a slogan ‘move beyond’.
There’s a lot of passing the buck over who was responsible for the decision, but ultimately the ad showing a gay couple was deemed to run afoul of guidelines meant to prevent display of material that is “immoral; or which offend the generally accepted standards of public decency or…[which cause]discomfort, fear, distress, embarrassment or distaste to the public.”
The public transit agency tries to walk back the controversy emphasizing their “commitment to equal opportunities and diversity” and suggesting that something like this might be accepted in the future.
Lucky suggests that “while Hong Kong is more progressive than some other places…clearly there’s still a long way to go.”
And that’s certainly true. And while Hong Kong hasn’t come as far as the West in recognizing LGBT rights and identities (when it was under British rule liberalization in the UK didn’t follow to the same degree in Hong Kong out of fear that the people wouldn’t accept it, homosexual relationships were only decriminalized in 1991), it’s also increasingly subject to constraints imposed by Beijing.
The government in Hong Kong is not permitted to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation as a result of a 2005 court decision interpreting the 1991 Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
In mainland China sexual activity between members of same sex was only legalized in 1997, though it was still considered a mental illness until 2001. The truly communist era of China was anti-LGBT. Today the Chinese government seems to take a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to homosexuality. And the government of Xi Jinping takes a cautious approach to social movements generally, worried about their destabilizing effects.
That approach is increasingly spreading to Hong Kong. Though the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 came with it a commitment to “one country, two systems” and autonomy for Hong Kong until 2047, that independence has been giving way to Beijing’s influence — and to lessened tolerance for dissent and social movements.
Hong Kong has been forced by Beijing to remove pro-democracy legislators from their positions. They’ve outlawed Hong Kong’s National Party whose platform rests on independence from China, and they’ve just imprisoned the leaders of 2014 pro-democracy protests.
Some of the societal discomfort with LGBT rights is cultural (though largely dating to 19th century westernization), however the march of progress in Hong Kong also seems impeded by mainland China.