HKFP Reports Hong Kong Law & Crime LGBTQ & Gender

Banks to make rare intervention in Hong Kong gay rights case

Twelve international banks and financial institutions are set to file submissions to the Court of Appeal, after a British lesbian’s legal bid to obtain a dependent visa from the Hong Kong Immigration Department was denied last year.

Last March, the High Court rejected a judicial review application from the woman known as QT, who entered into a civil partnership with another woman, SS, in Britain. When SS moved to Hong Kong to work at a technology firm in 2011, QT was denied a dependent visa, and has had to repeatedly enter the city as a tourist.

highcourt

File photo: HKFP.

The same dependent visa is routinely granted to heterosexual couples. QT has since appealed the High Court’s rejection of her legal challenge.

Intervenors

HKFP has learnt that at least 12 global financial institutions have applied to the Court of Appeal to be able to file submissions as intervenors in the case. They plan to speak about how the results of the case could affect Hong Kong’s competitiveness and ability to hire global talent.

The institutions include: ABN AMRO Bank, AIG Insurance Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the Bank of New York Mellon, Blackrock Management North Asia, Credit Suisse (Hong Kong), Goldman Sachs Services (Hong Kong), Morgan Stanley Asia, Nomura International Hong Kong, the Royal Bank of Canada, Societe Generale and State Street Bank & Trust.

The Court of Appeal is still considering the applications. The hearing is scheduled to begin later this month.

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“By applying to intervene, they seek to assist the court by giving a more rounded picture of the issues than it would otherwise obtain, by providing an employer’s perspective to the court’s considerations,” read a statement from law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, representing the banks.

QT’s lawyer Michael Vidler also confirmed there had been an application to intervene by some banks, but did not give further details.

Lawmaker Ray Chan – Hong Kong’s only openly gay legislator – said on Twitter that protecting workers’ rights is the “right thing to do for business.”

A spokesperson for rights NGO Community Business told HKFP it supports the application by the banks, saying that inclusive businesses can lead wider society to change its attitudes towards the LGBT community.

“This issue not only affects overseas talent,” she said, “but also local home-grown talent who may be in a same-sex partnership which has been legally registered and recognised overseas.”

“The proposed change to Hong Kong’s immigration policy, besides being good for business, would not undermine stringent immigration controls.”

Hong Kong immigration department building

File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In an unrelated case, the High Court ruled in April that the Hong Kong government should grant civil servant welfare benefits to the spouses of civil servants married to same-sex partners overseas.

See also: Hong Kong gov’t appeals High Court ruling on marriage benefits for gay couple

But the government appealed the decision the following month after backlash from conservative groups, including a petition from 27,000 and five legislators.

HKFP has contacted several of the institutions for comment.

Banks to make rare intervention in Hong Kong gay rights case