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The first-ever International Symposium on LGBTI rights held in Hong Kong


Local and overseas experts discussed the issues and experiences relating to the protection of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Hong Kong and the European Union at today's (29 August 2014) “Working Together for an Inclusive Society : LGBTI Rights in Comparative Perspective” International Symposium co-organized by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao, and the Gender Research Centre (GRC) of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Bringing together local overseas experts and stakeholders under one roof, this ground-breaking event aims to provide a platform for examining the LGBTI issues, and to heighten understanding of the impact of potential legislation on the society. The event was supported by British Consulate General Hong Kong, the British Council, and the Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC, said, “As a global city, Hong Kong has an obligation to protect the equal rights of all vulnerable sectors and eliminate discrimination against them in the different aspects of public life. In mapping out our approaches to promote LGBTI rights, we should look at what has been done in other jurisdictions who have dealt with similar situations and challenges. This Symposium is an important opportunity for mutual learning, with the goal to achieve equal opportunities for sexual and transgender minorities.”

Mr. Vincent PIKET, Head of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao, reiterated that the EU is committed to the principle of the universality of human rights. “Any cultural, traditional or religious values should not be invoked to justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI persons,” Mr. PIKET remarked. “This important event will identify opportunities for advocacy strategies, and find ways to engage effectively with policy-makers to enact change in protecting the rights of LGBTI persons. Moreover, it will contribute to strengthening the bilateral co-operation between the European Union and Hong Kong,” he added.

Professor Susanne Y.P. CHOI, Co-Director of the GRC which pioneers in research on gender issues within Hong Kong, said, “In recent years, many countries have worked to improve or protect the rights of LGBTI people in view of the recognition that regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, all citizens should be able to enjoy their human rights. The Symposium has provided a significant educational forum to understand more about the importance of protecting LGBTI rights, while respecting the diversity of opinions within society.”

The full-day conference held today featured discussions and exchange of practical experience of the European Union and Hong Kong on introducing legislation to protect LGBTI rights, and its potential impact on business, education, religious organizations and the wider society. A number of reputed academic and legal professionals from different parts of Europe and the United States have specially made the journey to participate as speakers in the conference, namely former Dutch legislator Mr. Boris DITTRICH; Reverend Duncan DORMOR, President and Dean, St John’s College of the University of Cambridge; Professor Holning LAU, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law; Professor Aileen McCOLGAN, Professor of Human Rights Law, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London; and Professor Stephen WHITTLE, Professor of Equalities Law, Manchester Metropolitan University. Ms. Ulrike LUNACEK, Member, European Parliament also highlighted the experience of the European Union in advancing LGBTI rights in a video.

From the development of approaches in Hong Kong to the relationship between religious freedom, freedom of expression and LGBTI rights, and the creation of inclusive workplaces for LGBTI employees, the speakers had a lively exchange with their local counterparts, who came from a variety of professions and backgrounds, such as LGBTI concern groups, NGO, the business and religious sectors. These included: Mr. Asad BEG, Head of Political, Press and Information Section, European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao; Dr. Tjeerd de Boer, Associate Professor of the Lutheran Theological Seminary; Ms. Joanna LEUNG, Founder, Transgender Resource Centre; Ms. Fern NGAI, Chief Executive Officer of Community Business, and Ms. Tafline YEW, Head of Human Resources, Hong Kong, The HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. Also joining the discussions were Mr. Juan Manual LOPEZ-NADAL, Consul-General of Spain to Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR and Ms. Caroline WILSON, British Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macao, who acted as moderators of the panels. (Note: For full programme of the conference, please refer to the attachment or symposium website.)

Through the European Union and Hong Kong experiences, participants of the Symposium were able to reflect on the progress in protecting LGBTI rights, and the way forward. They considered the Symposium a good starting point for further discussions on how the government, business, concerned groups, and equal opportunities practitioners could promote LGBTI rights, in response to the specific challenges that were highlighted. Also, the Symposium had fostered professional development and facilitated network building and collaboration.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. CHOW appealed to the public to approach the issue of LGBTI with objectivity and universal compassion. “Irrespective of one's personal views, the right to non-discrimination in public is an irrefutable right of all humans.” Dr. CHOW noted, “Elsewhere around the world, we have already seen progress on this front, with many countries taking proactive steps to ensure the human rights of all and legislating against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. I hope these valuable lessons can help shape Hong Kong’s own path and help us anticipate our journey.”

Over 200 participants from the academia and legal profession, private and public sectors, religious groups, NGOs and concern groups attended the Symposium held today at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Information and power-point presentations by speakers will be uploaded onto the symposium website at :

Photo of “Working Together for an Inclusive Society: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Rights in Comparative Perspective” International Symposium

 Photo of “Working Together for an Inclusive Society: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Rights in Comparative Perspective” International Symposium


For Media enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.

Equal Opportunities Commission
29 August 2014