Hong Kong Law & Crime LGBTQ & Gender Politics & Protest

Re-election means sexual orientation is not ‘box-office poison’ says openly-gay lawmaker

His re-election as Hong Kong’s first and only openly gay lawmaker is a sign of increasing public support towards LGBTQ issues, lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen has said.

Chan, who came out as gay shortly after he was elected in September 2012, celebrated the fact that he was re-elected in the LegCo elections this month while speaking onstage at a press event for this month’s Pink Dot carnival, the biggest LGBT event in Hong Kong.

“I was the first openly gay legislative council member before, but this year I was an openly gay candidate being elected as a legislative council member.”

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Raymond Chan at the Pink Dot press conference. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

He said this proves that being gay is not “box office poison” – the idea that candidates would lose votes for being gay or supporting LGBTQ issues.

“There was a lot of pressure this time, actually,” Chan told HKFP on Friday. “There were a lot of people saying stuff like I lied to them because I didn’t tell them I was gay.”

He said that when his team was canvassing, they would get passersby saying awful things every day.

“We’d have people walk by saying awful things everyday, like faggot. There was even one man hitting us with an umbrella and yelling at my team that they were tarnishing their reputations by helping me.”

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Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

“But in the end, the fact that I could be elected proves that sexual orientation is not an impediment.”

He said he was re-elected with more votes than he received in the last election in 2012. In the previous LegCo election, he received 38,042 votes, while this time he received 45,993.

“This is definitely a sign of increasing support towards LGBT issues,” he said.

Anti-discrimination law

When asked about legislation to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, Chan said: “If the government is willing to propose the draft, I have confidence that the motion will pass. But it depends on whether the government will take the initiative to do it.”

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Conchita Wurst, Eurovision Star, at the Pink Dot press conference. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

“I think at the earliest it will have to wait until after the Chief Executive elections in March… I do hope that I can complete this while I’m in term these four years,” he added.

Although Chan’s election bid was successful, the Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan, an established pan-democrat and long-time supporter of LGBT rights, was unable to win a seat in her Hong Kong Island constituency. She lost out to candidates like the pro-Beijing Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and pro-democracy newcomer Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Ho proposed a motion in the Legislative Council in 2012 for a public consultation on anti-discrimination legislation to protect sexual minorities, but it was voted down.

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Cyd Ho and Raymond Chan at the Pink Dot press conference. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Speaking on Ho’s loss, Chan said: “I definitely feel that it’s unfortunate and that I’m missing a partner. A legislator only gets to raise issues in LegCo once or twice in four years, so if there are two of us there will be a greater chance.”

However, Ho says she will continue to support LGBT rights, as she has done for the past 16 years.

One woman speaking to her after the conference was in tears as she thanked Ho for her work and told her to keep trying.

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Cyd Ho at the Pink Dot press conference. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Ho said onstage that even though she was not re-elected, she pledges to review all legislative proposals. “I guarantee you that whenever there is the word spouse, or family member, I will be sure to draft one more amendment to include gay couples. I will keep working on that,” she said. 

She told HKFP that she hoped the Hong Kong government would do more.

“I hope [the] anti-discrimination law will be a big issue in the upcoming Chief Executive election,” she said, adding that she would organise LGBT concern groups to make an “orchestrated effort” to find out candidates’ stance on equal opportunities for all minorities during the election next March.

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Re-election means sexual orientation is not 'box-office poison' says openly-gay lawmaker