Unrest in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community stayed vigilant this past weekend despite police and government oppression.
Hong Kong has been the center of political unrest this entire year. The country has been in turmoil after its lawmakers tried to hand over more power to the Chinese government. Lawmakers introduced an extradition law that would allow the deportation of accused criminals to other continues, and specifically China, without a formal extradition agreement.
Despite Hong Kong technically being a territory of China, the two have a type of “live and let live” policy. At least, until this extradition law development. And now, Hong Kong has seen constant protests and fights (including one involving Hong Kong’s only openly gay lawmaker). All of this public opposition to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments has led to crackdowns on the citizens and public events. Unfortunately, that includes Pride.
Hong Kong Pride Descaled
According to the Straits Times, police downgraded Hong Kong’s annual gay pride parade scheduled for Saturday, November 16 to a stationary rally. The police allowed the event to still continue, though at a smaller scale, if participants agreed to it being a “form of a public meeting” and not a march/parade.
Ryan Chan, the before mentioned gay lawmaker, decried the parade ban.
“The pride parade has always been orderly, peaceful and well-disciplined,” he said. “There is no reason for the police to reject the pride parade application… It has nothing to do with the recent protests.”
That said, it appears that many LGBTQ citizens, in-island allies, and international supporters weren’t going to take this ban sitting down. According to the South China Morning Post, more than 6,500 people showed up for the Pride rally initially. Though, police intimidation and tension led to a drop in attendance until police say only 850 remained.
Some agree with the police’s decision to descale the event and see it as a necessary precaution in a violently turbulent environment.
“[It was based on] safety, [including] worries about whether it would get hijacked for other purposes,” says a British lawyer, who asked to keep his identity withheld, to SCMP. “I can understand that… but I’m not going to blame one side or another.”
Pop star Denise Ho agreed and said to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The whole city had been on hold in the five months of protests because of this government’s arrogance, so of course LGBTQ rights are on hold without democracy.”
What About The Gay Games?
With all of this civil and political unrest around the city-state, there is also a concern for whether the country can handle the 2022 Gay Games. Hong Kong was set to be the first Asian location for the international LGBTQ sports competition. That said, the political situation for LGBTQ people and the general populace has led to questions on whether it’d be better to relocate the upcoming games. After all, what if the police decided to descale or outright cancel that event as well?
But the Federation of Gay Games and the Gay Games Hong Kong Mangement Team have recently released a joint statement. The statement reaffirms the continuing plans to hold the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong.
“While we fully recognize the troubles in Hong Kong continue, the FGG Board and the attending members are leaving Mexico committed to the Gay Games in Hong Kong, which will be a spectacular sports and cultural event that will kick-start and foster LGBTQ+ connections among our communities in the city and region,” the statement says.
“This will be the largest LGBTQ+ sports and cultural event ever held in Asia,” the statement continues. “12,000 participants, 36 sports, and 20+ cultural events will take place over 9 days in November 2022.”
The FGG statement has not stated whether the organization is preparing a safety plan in case the turmoil in Hong Kong doesn’t calm down by 2022. That said, Shiv Paul, the Officer of Communications for the FGG, pointed out how other sports events are still thriving in the city-state despite political unrest. The International Rugby Tournament “Rugby Sevens” is planned for April 2020 without any expected trouble and the World Rowing Championship took place without a hitch two weeks ago.
Plus, Carrie Lam, the highly unpopular chief executive at the center of this political controversy, is expected to be replaced soon. Once that happens, the political tensions may calm down within the city-state. That will then allow citizens to return to normal and for LGBTQ citizens to return to the fight for equality and not democracy in general.
“Hong Kong is an opportunity to make a positive political statement by doing something that is fun and non-threatening and which can change peoples’ perspectives of what it means to be LGBTQ+“ said Gene Dermody, a participant in all 10 previous Gay Games, in the FGG statement.
“We believe in the power of unity that comes from diversity,” the statement says. “The Gay Games 11 tagline, Unity in Diversity, is an extremely relevant message not just for the Gay Games but for Hong Kong at this difficult time.”