Anti-LGBT groups complain of ‘chilling effect’ after airport, MTR decide to run Cathay ad

Photo via Facebook/Priscilla Leung.
Photo via Facebook/Priscilla Leung.

A pro-Beijing lawmaker has accused supporters of LGBT rights of creating a “chilling effect” after Hong Kong’s Airport Authority (AA) and MTR Corporation bowed to public pressure and reversed a decision to block a Cathay Pacific ad depicting a gay couple.

Wait, huh?

At a press conference yesterday attended by 16 “pro-family” and anti-LGBT groups, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong lawmaker Priscilla Leung said she will be writing to the authority and MTR to complain about their U-turn over the ad, which features an innocuous image of two men holding hands on a beach and the tagline “Move Beyond Labels,” Stand News reports.

“The incident shows the pro-gay rights movement in Hong Kong has created a chilling effect,” said Leung, adding that the reversal was caused by “political pressure” from LGBT groups.

“The advert is highly controversial and can affect the growth of children. As public organizations, [the MTR and AA] should be socially responsible and maintain their original decision of banning the advert.”

Indeed, some could reasonably argue that public displays of bigotry on the part of political figures could have a “chilling effect” on everyday citizens trying live their lives openly as LGBT individuals, though it was unclear today whether Leung was aware of that irony.

According to a TVB news report, Leung said: “Although the MTR, AA, and even Cathay Pacific are private enterprises, they also have social enterprise responsibilities. It should be considered that most Hongkongers don’t agree with [homosexuality].”

Leung didn’t cite a source for that rather contentious claim, so allow us here at Coconuts HK to point to a Hong Kong University survey last year that found that a majority of Hongkongers actually support legalizing gay marriage, enacting laws protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and conferring equal legal rights on gay couples.

In a lengthy Facebook post published yesterday, Leung cited article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that people should respect “the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”[0]=68.ARC1xrmya1JPVXhP5RhVO4tEyUuxbFlpnFEMNoFMGAGrO22YvTOXGHhpqBCvceFCXto17VVyl30LuqSMasVCiiCJGyWUGDnNrXciHH_zWGUhaewsfP5k6yvHsf-3s0vxzOIOw89Gp1lOhLw9k2hRwgtNqkLpU5p69rhXpn_wTe0ftv2MvxF73nWaE9PepneK4fKMtbz2jGfke6c9mYSpM8D6v4PEd4_1IZ6WbRME8H6iZdXsYzDNhyZcLFJQlNaEa6EMioUj07Y5JNlRW2YLyWIW75JXMYhmuz8imCdiu6cfuYaz7ximrL0vJOjORN3AK6yYkUVxwBhmEn9cBMk_iIN25A&__tn__=-R


It was also unclear today whether Leung was aware of the irony in citing a document that forbids discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation as justification for doing just that.

Leung went on to add that businesses have the right not to display certain advertisements, adding that ads displayed in public places shouldn’t feature pornography or violence, saying that such images can have a “negative impact on a child’s physical and mental health.”

The Cathay Pacific ad that was reportedly rejected by the MTR and Airport Authority. Handout photo.
The Cathay Pacific ad that was reportedly rejected by the MTR and Airport Authority. Handout photo.

She did not clarify whether it was the violence or the pornography in the photo of suit-wearing men holding hands that she objected to, or how, exactly, said photo might endanger a child’s health.

The advertisement in question was part of Cathay’s “Move Beyond” rebranding, and was meant to showcase the airline’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

After it was revealed that the ad had been rejected by the MTR and AA — or, as they strenuously and, at times, confusingly claimed, by third-party ad sales companies — the backlash among Hong Kong’s LGBT community and its allies was swift and comprehensive.

A social media campaign was launched featuring gay couples and their supporters holding hands inside the city’s train stations using the hashtags “#MoveBeyondLabels” and “#MoveBeyondDiscrimination.” Meanwhile, Ray Chan, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker, sharply criticized both companies in the media.

The outrage prompted both the MTR Corp and AA to back down and display the ads.

Leung’s press conference came one day after the pro-LGBT NGO Big Love Alliance celebrated the win by gathering on one of the platforms at Central MTR station to celebrate the unveiling of one of the Cathay posters on Saturday.

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