Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination watchdog has warned certain lawmakers to stop their “stigmatisation” of the upcoming Gay Games, adding that the city’s hosting of the international event has nothing to do with supporting same-sex marriage, as some have claimed.
Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Ricky Chu man-kin on Thursday hit back at criticisms made by politicians such as the outspoken legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who the day before had called the event “disgraceful”.
Chu told a radio programme the Games’ organiser had been preparing since 2016, and that the event only aimed to promote the values of equality, inclusiveness and diversity, which were consistent with his commission’s remit and deserving of support.
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“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” he said. “All people can participate in the sports event and it is completely different from advocating same-sex marriages in the city.”
The row over the Games began on Wednesday during a Legislative Council meeting, when executive councillor and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee urged the government to offer more support to the event’s organiser, given the difficulty they had experienced finding venues – a call the Equal Opportunities Commission has echoed.
The international event, she said, would help the city maintain its metropolitan image.
But at least three other pro-establishment lawmakers took issue with Ip’s idea, with Ho brushing off suggestions the games could help boost the local economy, saying he did not want the “dirty money”.
“We respect people with different sexual orientations. Whatever you do in your room, it’s your own business. But if you do it in public, it’s disgraceful,” he said.
Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, meanwhile, said government support of the Games would equate to approval of same-sex marriage, and might even “tear apart society”.
Leung asked the government to remain neutral in the matter, saying its “popularity is already low enough”.
Another pro-establishment legislator, Holden Chow Ho-ding, said the government should stop assisting the event, as it would arouse anger from religious and family-oriented groups.
But Chu, of the Equal Opportunities Commission, blasted the protracted debate as unproductive on Thursday.
“If every discussion goes on indefinitely, Hong Kong will hardly be able to organise any events. Such an inflexible attitude will only bring more harm than good to the city,” he said.
“The Gay Games is a public event in which everyone can participate, regardless of your race, sex or sexual orientation,” he added. “We hope society can stop the stigmatisation, and uphold the values of equality and respect.”
Founded as the “Gay Olympics”, the Gay Games was first held in the United States in San Francisco, California, in 1982.
Held every four years, the sport and cultural event aims to promote sexual diversity and features lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes and artists.
Hong Kong was announced back in 2017 as the next host city, marking the first time the games would be held in Asia, and some 12,000 participants are expected to compete in 36 sports events and 13 arts and cultural activities from November 11 to 19 next year.
On Wednesday, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai noted the aim of the Gay Games was to promote equality and inclusion, and anyone was welcome to participate regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Tsui said under the current practice of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Games, as a locally registered organisation, could book non-peak and peak slots at government sports facilities up to six months and three months in advance, respectively.
The department, he added, would be “pleased” to help process their applications, and would try to meet the organiser soon to see what assistance it could offer under the existing procedures.
The organiser on Wednesday said it respected the views of lawmakers and would continue working to change “hearts and minds”.
This article Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination watchdog slams politicians’ ‘stigmatisation’ of coming Gay Games first appeared on South China Morning Post