Three people have been permitted to remain in Hong Kong under a special measure allowing the same-sex spouses of consular staff to stay beyond the usual limits, the government said on Wednesday.
HKFP earlier learned that the government had granted a concession to the same-sex spouses or civil partners of consular staff last June allowing them to enter the city and stay for as long as the tenure of the diplomatic official. The government granted the exception as a result of meetings between representatives from 13 consulates and the Hong Kong government.
In a written response at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, the Acting Secretary for Security John Lee confirmed that, between June and December 2016, three persons were permitted to enter and remain under the measure.
‘Does not imply recognition’
The government’s statement was made in response to a question submitted by lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen, who said some members of the public expressed concern that the differential treatment is unfair.
Lee’s response restated the government’s position that the measure is only an “an administrative arrangement which does not imply recognition in the HKSAR of the applicants as spouses of accredited members of the consular posts in the HKSAR.” The measure is distinct from the immigration policy on entry as a dependant, and has no effect on existing legislation, it said.
The measure only applies to the same-sex partners of accredited consulate staff holding diplomatic, official or service passports, and does not apply to those with ordinary passports, it added.
The Hong Kong government does not recognise same-sex unions of any form, maintaining the stance that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The existing immigration policy follows the same principle, meaning that only those in recognised heterosexual relationships can be granted a dependents’ visa, which allows one to work legally.
In March, the High Court turned down a legal challenge from a British lesbian, known as QT, who was refused a dependent visa from the Immigration Department because the government does not recognise her civil partnership. The appeal for the case will be heard in June.
A judicial review filed by civil servant Angus Leung, whose same-sex marriage in New Zealand is not recognised in Hong Kong, is currently awaiting a written judgement.
Billy Leung, vice-chair of the Pink Alliance LGBT activist group, told HKFP that he welcomed the measure to recognise consular staff partners, but added: “[T]he government said in two earlier court cases that it does not recognise same-sex couples and therefore does not allow same-sex couples to have the rights of uniting with their families, the same employee benefits [as heterosexual couples] and combined tax returns.”
“I urge the government to give same-sex couples the same rights as soon as possible – including immigration rights and the rights to unite with their families.”