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Hong Kong court rejects banks’ application to intervene in gay rights case

Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal has rejected an application by 12 financial institutions to file submissions supporting a British lesbian’s legal bid to obtain a visa from the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

The woman – known as QT – is appealing last year’s High Court decision to reject her judicial review application, after the Immigration Department refused to issue her a dependent visa.

QT entered into a civil partnership with another woman, SS, in the UK in 2011. But when SS came to Hong Kong to work, the Immigration Department only allowed QT to enter the city on a tourist visa.

banks lgbt

The 12 financial institutions made the applications to be heard in the case as interveners on Wednesday. They planned to speak about how the result 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.

Employer’s perspective

But the Court of Appeal rejected the applications on Thursday morning.

“The court can easily see the more rounded picture from the employers’ perspective without [the financial institutions’] input,” wrote Chief Judge Andrew Cheung in his judgement.

“The proposed interveners will most likely be repeating the points QT may wish to make anyway,” he added.

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File photo: HKFP.

Hong Kong’s only openly-gay lawmaker Ray Chan expressed his disappointment towards the judgement on Facebook.

“If the court really understands the case as it says in its judgement to reject the 12 banks’ applications, then it should also understand that the Immigration Department’s refusal to issue a dependent visa to same-sex couples is a violation of the government’s financial policy [to increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness].”

See also: Banks to make rare intervention in Hong Kong gay rights case

QT’s lawyer, Michael Vidler, told HKFP that his client is disappointed with the court’s refusal to allow the application to intervene, but respects the decision.

“The application itself is a historic event in the advancement of LGBTI rights in Hong Kong,” said Vidler. “Never before have so many major employers in an industry which is the cornerstone to Hong Kong’s economic success, so unequivocally and publicly shown their support for LGBTI rights in Hong Kong.”

“They have made it crystal clear to the Hong Kong government that the current policy… is having a detrimental effect on their ability to attract the best talent from the increasingly competitive international employment pool.”

Michael Vidler

Michael Vidler. File photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“We are disappointed by the outcome, but respect the court’s decision,” read a statement by law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, representing the banks.

“We continue to believe that attracting world-class talent, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, to Hong Kong’s financial services industry is essential in maintaining Hong Kong’s position as a preeminent international financial centre, and we will continue to advocate policies that facilitate this.”

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Hong Kong court rejects banks' application to intervene in gay rights case