As the anti-government protests near their one-year anniversary, Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ community grows increasingly concerned with the threat extradition may pose to them. As a self-governing territory, Hong Kong’s legal protections for LGBT citizens extend past that of mainland China, with public support for laws against LGBT discrimination on the rise. In particular, China’s legal influence may mean significant consequences for queer women who rely on Hong Kong’s greater freedoms and vibrant lesbian underbelly.
Fighting for LGBTQ+ Legislation
Hong Kong prohibits government-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On the contrary, China offers no such protection. Both governments fall short of legalizing same-sex marriage or expanding LGBT anti-discrimination laws to employment and housing. Nonetheless, free from China’s censorship laws, LGBTQ+ activists in Hong Kong have a greater stronghold over legislation and public opinion. Raymond Chan, Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator, uses his platform to advocate for justice and equality. In an interview with Voice of America, Chan states that “the fight for gay rights goes hand-in-hand with the protest movement [in Hong Kong].” He goes on to say, “When the majority of Hong Kong people have no basic human rights [under China’s legal system], I cannot imagine the [sexual] minority can enjoy equality.”
Queer Women Spaces In Danger
Chinese conservative attitudes may also endanger Hong Kong’s growing bubbles of queer culture, particularly those that act as sanctuaries for queer women. Among them is Les Péchés, a nonprofit organization that hosts events for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. “We have definitely had many more women from the mainland come to our parties in the past few years,” co-founder Betty Grisoni told the South China Morning Post.
Spaces for queer women exist not only because of Hong Kong’s greater LGBTQ+ acceptance but its greater female independence. Hong Kongese women are more likely to pursue careers, participate in politics, and marry later than their mainland counterparts. For many queer women in China, Hong Kong represents the possibility of self-expression and identity development.
The connection between the ongoing protest and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not lost on Hong Kong’s queer community. In November 2019, thousands of people took to the street for Hong Kong’s annual pride parade, including Legislator Chan. Many held up signs and yelled chants in support of the anti-government movement. Nonetheless, the crowd was only half as big as the one last year. This was due to the government’s mask ban preventing protestors from hiding their identities. This directly threatens LGBTQ+ people who have yet to come out. With freedoms already being curbed, many worry for the future of LGBT-oriented legislation.