Why Hong Kong’s Rejection of Cathay Pacific Advertising is a Show of Strength for Beijing

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.

Hong Kong is currently considering legislation that would allow extradition of people at the request of mainland China.

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.

(HT: @HKTBlog_Dom)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Perceived strength maybe but the fact that its neighbor became the first Asian country to allow same sex marriages just shows how backwards the mainland really is.

  2. @Pete, so not agreeing with the West’s mindset or standards is backwards—the same mindset that preaches tolerance and acceptance—however when it’s not along the same line of thoughts, then it’s backwards. Yet this same supposedly open mindedness is so narrow minded to not accept there are other standards, cultures and thoughts that are different then their own.

  3. @Tigris23

    That’s perhaps the most stupid thing I’ve read all day. Not accepting bigotry isn’t small mindedness.

  4. @Tigris23

    Wordplays do not impress me! Mainland China BS does not work for the rest of the world. And, yes, the Mainland is backwards! AND, IT IS UNACCEPTABLE! AM I YELLING LOUD ENOUGH?

  5. @Usa & JohnB–again, the world does exist outselve of your beliefs and narrowmindedness. And JohnB, what are you going to do about mainland China being “unacceptable”?? I bet you have supported them with your very hard earned $$! So if it’s so unacceptable to you, dare you throw out any and all products you own that’s made in China–afterall, your $ spent in them are supporting the very backwardness practices you so speak against.

  6. Just a note that if what you wrote is correct, same sex activity was legal in China (1997) before the U.S. officially. Same sex activity wasn’t officially legal throughout the U.S. until 2013 (Lawrence vs. Texas)

  7. @ all the White Western mentality, you are not Chinese and do not have a saying what they can or cant do or say. your opinions mean SH*****

  8. Tell us again how the grounding of 737 Max by China was all a political decision by china and not a concern for safety and that we should have kept flying on those planes? I have a lot of issues with China, but it seems like this blog is quick to attack Beijing anytime a story comes out concerning it.

  9. Sorry to be blunt but this post (and especially the headline on it) is utterly ridiculous. Yes, its true that China is interfering much more in Hong Kong, and the proposed legislation on extradition is particularly worrying to those of us who live here. But to suggest that Beijing was somehow involved in an advertising agency’s initial decision not to run this Cathay ad on our mass transit is ridiculous. You know the decision has now been reversed and the ad will be appearing on the mass transit? So are you going to change the headline to read “Hong Kong’s Display of Cathay Pacific Advertising is a Show of Weakness for Beijing”? Of course, not. Just shows how ridiculous your original headline was.

  10. I agree with Danny. I have lived in Hong Kong for 22 years and have seen the pernicious influence of the mainland grow but Hong Kong is so conservative that there would have been no need for the mainland to get involved here and there is no evidence or even reporting that they did

  11. Ridiculous on many levels, especially in hindsight now that this policy has been reversed. MTR Corp. is a private company, not an unaccountable government public transportation agency like the MTA somesuch. Private profit making companies are answerable to the public in ways that politicians are not, and this stupid policy threatened to piss off their customers, leading to an almost immediate turnabout. In Hong Kong (and increasingly in China too) money and markets make the rules, and that is a very good thing.

  12. I’ve been reading your blog for some time, and I met you at Freddie. But I have to say, when it comes to politics and China, you are so goddamn ignorant and arrogant. You can’t speak Chinese, and you never lived there, you don’t know how the system works, all the information you received, are either from NYT or WSJ, which can only provide only one side of the story. And you are using their opinion as your opinion, and you are quite proud of it( being brainwashed is not a privilege for Chinese, you as an American, showed us what it looks like to be brainwashed by US MSM ).

    and yeah, like Bill said:
    Tell us again how the grounding of 737 Max by China was all a political decision by china and not a concern for safety and that we should have kept flying on those planes? I have a lot of issues with China, but it seems like this blog is quick to attack Beijing anytime a story comes out concerning it.

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