Hong Kong gov’t warns Gay Games 2023 must obey the law, whether using public or private venues

Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) must be conducted in a “lawful, safe and orderly manner” whether or not events are held in public or private venues, the government has warned.

In response to media enquiries on Thursday, a government spokesperson said licences and permits may be required and government departments must process applications for the use of public venues and spaces in “strict accordance with existing procedures and criteria.”

hk gov hq government building headquarters
Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

“The organiser must comply with Hong Kong laws and regulations, regardless of where the events are held, including private venues, government venues or public spaces,” the statement read. “Many of its events will be held in private venues. The Government has reminded the organiser to observe the laws and regulations in Hong Kong, regardless of whether the events are held in private venues or not.”

It is unclear what prompted the warning. HKFP has reached out to GGHK for comment.

The press release came a day after GGHK said it had secured government-operated Queen Elizabeth Stadium for its opening and closing ceremonies, concerts and martial arts and dodgeball contests.

gay games
The Gay Games team. Photo: Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023, via Facebook.

Other confirmed venues include: MacPherson Stadium, Jockey Club HKCFA Football Training Centre, HKC Dragon Boat Association Training Centre, Sha Tin Rowing Centre, HKU Stanley Ho Sports Centre, Victoria Recreation Club, KGV School, Kowloon Junior School and SoHo House.
AIA Vitality Park will host the festival village.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, a Gay Games spokesperson said they had “no idea” why the government statement was issued: “We issued a press release providing a GGHK update on Wednesday 23 August, so perhaps they received media enquiries about that.”

They added that they did not interpret the statement as a warning: “As we have said all along, as any responsible organisation and event organiser would do, we will of course comply with all laws in Hong Kong. We have no problem with that at all. Our overriding goal is to deliver a safe, welcoming, joyous, diverse and inclusive event that will reflect positively on Hong Kong. Hong Kong is consistently rated as one of the world’s safest cities. We see no reason why this would change before, during or after our event.”

The Gay Games aims to promote diversity, and is open to all athletes.

Embattled games

The games have has been hampered by a lack of government support, internal wranglings and the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, three sports were axed due to low sign-ups. GGHK also expressed disappointment over the Hong Kong Football Club’s decision to withdraw its venue for the football finals, and has seen only 2,000 athletes sign up – 10,000 below the expected figure.

Hong Kong emerged as the chosen host for the 2022 Gay Games in 2017, prevailing over competing bids from Washington DC and Guadalajara, Mexico. It marked the first time in the 40-year history of the games that the event would be hosted by an Asian city. Then-leader, Carrie Lam said at the time only that she had “noted” the win.

In 2021, the competition was postponed to this year owing to the pandemic.

Gay Games 9
Opening ceremony of Gay Games 9. File Photo: Koji Kawano via Flickr.

In 2022, organisers announced that the Games would be co-hosted by Hong Kong and Guadalajara. The Mexican city received sponsorship from the authorities and local tourism bureau. When Paris hosted the Gay Games in 2018, the French president, the mayor of Paris, and the local tourism bureau contributed financially. However, GGHK has not received any sponsorship from the Hong Kong government.

Since the games were announced, pro-establishment parties and anti-LGBT groups have been on the attack. Junius Ho, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, claimed during a Legislative Council meeting in June 2021 that Hong Kong did not want the event’s “dirty money”, adding that he was worried it might lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriage. This year, he claimed the games were a national security risk.

In June 2023, representatives from several groups staged a demonstration outside government headquarters, holding up banners that referred to the Gay Games as “indecent” and “obscene.”

gay games protest
Representatives from local groups protesting against Hong Kong’s hosting of the Gay Games on June 21, 2023. File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lawmakers Regina Ip and Adrian Ho from the pro-Beijing New People Party are among the few legislative members who have expressed support for Hong Kong’s hosting of the games.

Whilst same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1991, Hong Kong has no laws to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, the provision of goods and services, or from hate speech. Equal marriage remains illegal, although a 2023 survey showed that 60 per cent of Hongkongers support it.

Despite repeated government appeals, courts have granted those who married – or who entered civil partnerships – abroad some recognition in terms of taxspousal visas and public housing.

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