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Summary: Focus The Life and Future of British Colonial Sexual Regulation in AsiaPride or Prejudice? Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Religion in Post-Colonial Hong Kong
Author: Amy Barrow, Joy L Chia
Summarised by Phyllis Lee (Associate)
As a former British colony, Hong Kong’s LGBT communities have both been benefitted and limited by its colonial history. Despite the local society’s greater tolerance towards sexual minorities, Hong Kong lacks a steady progression towards anti-discrimination legislation due to the government’s inaction. The LGBT community continues to be deprived of an avenue for legal redress while suffering from discrimination in different domains such as education, employment, etc.
Regulation of Sexuality in Colonial and Post-Colonial Hong Kong
In 1991, under British colonial rule, Hong Kong’s sodomy laws which criminalised consensual same-sex sexual conduct was abolished. However, the Colonial Government did not take any steps to further safeguard LGBT rights. While confirming that different moral codes might co-exist in a society, it declared that the “removal of criminal penalties does not imply legal approval”. Thus, the absence of the provision of anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity remained.
Religion, Public Institutions and Colonial Legacy
Basic Law Article 141(3) provides that “religious organisations may, according to their previous practice, continue to run seminaries and other schools, hospitals and welfare organisations and to provide other social services”. Yet, no guidance is offered on the meaning of “previous practice”. Hence, such ambiguity created difficulties for the government to regulate its policies and religious actors’ provisions of services.
An example raised to illustrate the potential conflict between religious actors and LGBT communities was that, relying on the school’s vision and mission, teaching staffs in an international Christian school were required to sign a “morality contract” which would dismiss them if they engage in same-sex relationships.
Human rights advocates argued that Hong Kong should strive for fundamental protections to prevent the daily discrimination experienced by LGBT individuals. On the other hand, religious oppositions contend that anti-discrimination would be prejudiced against those who morally oppose homosexuality, leading to a violation of their freedom of expression and speech.
Although Hong Kong has achieved some significant advances in legally protecting sexual minorities, the Government continues to turn down calls for the balance of freedom of religion and the right to not be discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It is undeniable that there is a pervasive reach of religious institutions in Hong Kong. Thus, the Government must balance and safeguard the rights of both religious bodies and the LGBT community. If the Government fails to do so, the creation of an inclusive society would be rendered hard, if not impossible. Hong Kong’s global competitiveness would also be undermined as skilled LGBT migrants would probably refuse to reside in Hong Kong.
 Hansard, 11 July 1990
 Art 141(3), Basic Law
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