Enthusiasts Inaugurate Historic Gay Games in Hong Kong Amidst Political Disapproval

by Sophia Chen
Gay Games Hong Kong

Throngs of participants joyously marked the commencement of the Gay Games in Hong Kong on Saturday, a historic occasion as it represents the first time the event has taken place on Asian soil, despite facing resistance from some legislators with anti-LGBTQ views.

The event has attracted approximately 2,400 competitors from roughly 45 regions, including but not limited to the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Over the course of nine days, they will engage in a diverse array of sports such as tennis and swimming, as well as culturally significant activities unique to the region including dragon boat racing and mahjong.

The opening ceremony featured a parade of athletes, which set the stage for an eclectic mix of performances. These showcased the traditional elements of Hong Kong’s Chinese heritage, while also embracing contemporary expressions through modern dance, musical theatre, and performances by lion dancers.

In the current climate of increasing restrictions on civil liberties in Hong Kong, following the substantial pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019, LGBTQ+ advocacy remains one of the few areas witnessing tangible strides forward. This sporting occasion has sparked hope for further inclusivity of sexual minorities in the major Asian financial center. This comes on the heels of significant legal victories for same-sex couples regarding housing and inheritance rights, particularly for those married abroad.

Moreover, Hong Kong is progressing towards acknowledging same-sex partnerships, spurred by a significant court decision made in September.

However, the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights in the city is inconsistent. There remains a notable absence of legal protections against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and same-sex marriages are not legally sanctioned. While the younger demographics exhibit increasing acceptance of sexual minorities, a segment of the population retains conservative views.

Some establishment-backed legislators, including Junius Ho, have vocally opposed the Gay Games. Ho has cautioned the city’s Chief Executive John Lee about the infiltration of what he perceives as harmful ideologies, which he outlined in a Facebook post on Friday. He concurs with other detractors who believe that the games implicitly endorse the legalization of same-sex marriage, interpreting it as a challenge to the national security law imposed by Beijing.

Regina Ip, a prominent pro-establishment figure and a senior member of the Executive Council, also attracted scrutiny from those critical of gay rights for her support of the event.

The journey to the Games has been fraught with obstacles since Hong Kong was chosen as the host six years prior, with the government offering little backing.

The COVID-19 health crisis introduced an unexpected postponement and reduction of the Games, leading to Guadalajara in Mexico being selected as a secondary host, amidst the uncertainties of travel constraints.

Apprehensions regarding the enforcement of the security legislation — which has led to the detention of numerous prominent human rights advocates in Hong Kong — have made some supporters of LGBTQ+ causes hesitant to attend. Nevertheless, participants from Taiwan, which operates under the moniker “Chinese Taipei” in international athletic competitions due to China’s territorial claims, have visited the city.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing maintain that the security law has been instrumental in reinstating stability in the territory.

Taiwan, an autonomous democratic territory and the sole region in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, held its latest pride parade last month, which attracted an estimated 176,000 spectators and participants.

Alonso Chen, a veteran attendee of the Taipei pride parade, noted the gradual societal shift towards acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in Taiwan. He highlighted the significance of families attending recent events as a sign of evolving attitudes, as they present a normalized view of the community to their children.

The inaugural Gay Games were celebrated in San Francisco in 1982, setting the precedent for what has become an enduring international event celebrating diversity and inclusivity in sports.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gay Games Hong Kong

What is the significance of the Gay Games being held in Hong Kong?

The Gay Games in Hong Kong mark the first time this international LGBTQ+ inclusive sporting event has been held in Asia, showcasing progress in LGBTQ+ advocacy amid a broader governmental crackdown on civil liberties in the region.

How many participants are involved in the Gay Games in Hong Kong, and what activities are included?

Around 2,400 athletes from approximately 45 territories are competing in the Hong Kong Gay Games, participating in sports ranging from tennis and swimming to cultural events like dragon boat racing and mahjong.

Have there been any legal advancements for LGBTQ+ rights in Hong Kong recently?

Yes, there have been recent legal advancements for LGBTQ+ rights in Hong Kong, including court victories for housing and inheritance rights for overseas married same-sex couples and moves towards recognizing same-sex partnerships.

What has been the response of local lawmakers to the Gay Games in Hong Kong?

Some local lawmakers, particularly from the pro-establishment camp, have opposed the Gay Games, with Junius Ho warning against the spread of “bad ideologies” and others claiming the event promotes same-sex marriage, potentially contravening the national security law.

What challenges have the organizers of the Gay Games in Hong Kong faced?

The organizers have dealt with challenges including limited governmental support, postponement and downsizing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and concerns about the security law affecting international participation.

More about Gay Games Hong Kong

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Sam Peterson November 4, 2023 - 5:29 pm

really excited to see the Gay Games kicking off in HK, It’s a big moment for inclusion in sports and sends a strong message about diversity, kinda wish the gov would show more support though.

SportySpice November 5, 2023 - 12:55 am

Heard Junius Ho’s comments, doesn’t surprise me much politics is always trying to ruin the party for LGBTQ folks, glad the games are happening despite the negativity.

JessieK November 5, 2023 - 5:30 am

wow the Gay Games in Hong Kong? that’s impressive given the political climate there, hope the athletes have a blast and everything goes smooth.

RonLovesGames November 5, 2023 - 6:13 am

Saw some pics from the opening ceremony, looked amazing with all the cultural stuff, dragon boats and lion dancers, so cool!

HongKonger88 November 5, 2023 - 10:48 am

its bittersweet to see this happen, Yes for LGBTQ rights but we’ve still got a long way to go with anti-discrimination laws and stuff, fighting the good fight one day at a time.


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