Opinion: HK Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network is disappointed with the High Court’s decision on dependency visas

Today, the Hong Kong High Court dismissed a challenge by the same-sex civil partner of a UK citizen, who had a work visa in Hong Kong, to the earlier decision of the Director of Immigration to deny her a dependency visa. The Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network (HKGALA), which was founded in 2013 and has over 500 members primarily from the legal community, is disappointed with this result and hopes that the decision will be appealed and reversed.

The applicant in the QT case argued that the Director of Immigration’s refusal to grant her a dependency visa amounted to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and therefore violated principles of equality protected under Hong Kong law. The court found that the Director of Immigration had a “good reason” to discriminate in this case to promote “strict immigration control”. The decision states that under current Hong Kong law, marriage is defined as both “monogamous” and “heterosexual” and the Director of Immigration has authority to stick with this definition. It was noted that the applicant in the QT case had not challenged the definition of marriage itself in Hong Kong.

Members of HKGALA at the Hong Kong Pride Parade in Nov. 2015.

We at HKGALA regret the outcome of this case for the applicant herself, for the legal reasoning it employs and for what it means for Hong Kong and its lesbian and gay residents. In recent years, more and more jurisdictions have begun to recognise that fundamental to human dignity is the right to form loving relationships between two people and have those bonds recognized. Lest this be viewed as a phenomenon of Europe and North America alone, multiple wards and cities in Japan now recognise civil partnerships between same-sex couples, South Africa permits same-sex marriage, Uruguay and Mexico permit same-sex marriage and Israel, which lacks civil marriage altogether, recognises same-sex marriages performed abroad.  Closer to home, the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing Wen, has made marriage equality part of her platform and many in the region anticipate same-sex marriage to become a reality in Taiwan in the next one to two years.  Even in the mainland, the discussion of recognising same sex marriage has begun.

Hong Kong is a global city which seeks to distinguish itself on the basis of its ability to retain, develop and draw human talent, and to be a leader in education, culture and the rule of law, risks falling behind if it is unable to offer basic rights that are becoming increasingly routine around the world. Hong Kong should lead – not follow. Reversing this decision would be a good step; challenging the notion that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex partners in Hong Kong should be the next, and these challenges will come.

Words: Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network

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