Raymond Chi-chuen Chan’s Response to the Court of Final Appeal judgment on the QT v. Director of Immigration case on July 4, 2018
Office of Raymond Chan, Member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong
The LGBT community, with myself included, is elated today over the Court of Final Appeal’s judgement today. It is a milestone in the history of LGBT equality in Hong Kong. The verdict makes it very clear that QT, or other same-sex spouses or civil union partners who got married or entered in a civil union overseas for that matter, should not be excluded from the rights enjoyed by straight spouses, such as the right to apply for a dependent visa to stay in Hong Kong. This decision will change the lives of many Hong Kong–international couples who are now separated or inconvenienced by the discriminatory policy. I personally know many of these couples, and they plan on getting married overseas and apply for dependent visas to be reunited or settle down with their loved ones.
It is an opportune moment to institute a civil union in Hong Kong and to conduct a sweeping policy review. No same-sex couples should be excluded from enjoying certain rights, and that’s the standard set by Hong Kong’s highest court. Luckier LGBT couples may have the resources to go overseas to get married. A few courageous and determined LGBT citizens, such as QT in this case, went through a mentally and financially draining legal process to fight for themselves and many others. Many couples are less fortunate, for instance, many are still in the closet for fear of being discriminated against and losing their jobs, or do not have the time and money to get married overseas. They also are denied rights to hospital visit, apply for compassionate leave, and so on. Although civil society will fight on, the Government has the obligation under the Basic Law to ensure fair and equal treatment to all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation. The Government should take the lead to review all policies and establish an institution for couples to enter into civil union. Members of the LGBT community are tired of being treated as second class citizens, and we should not be burdened with going through laborious legal and political processes to seek the rights that they should already enjoy as human beings.
Yesterday, the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong released survey results demonstrating that around 70% of Hong Kong people support legislation to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. In the same survey, it is even more encouraging to learn that over 50% of Hong Kong people support same-sex marriage. LGBT equality is no longer “a controversial issue” as claimed by the current Carrie Lam administration or the previous C.Y. Leung administration. Therefore, there is no more excuse for the Government not to act proactively to ensure LGBT citizens enjoy the same rights as everyone else. Such constitutionally mandated action will also strengthen Hong Kong’s status as an international business and creative hub. I urge the Government to propose concrete plans and a timetable without delay to establish an institution of civil union, enact anti-discrimination legislation, and conduct a comprehensive policy review. It is time to act to safeguard the human rights of all Hong Kong citizens.
[Raymond Chan is Hong Kong parliamentarian (2012 –) and Chairperson of People Power (2016 –). He is the first openly gay lawmaker in the Chinese-speaking world, reelected to public office with 45,993 votes. Follow him on Twitter @slowbeat_chan ]