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Hong Kong holds first-ever gay games in Asia despite opposition from anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers and human rights activists

There are going to be more than 2,300 competitors from 45 countries for the sporting and cultural events which would include mahjong and dragon boat racing. The tournament is being co-hosted by Guadalajara, in Mexico. The tournament would conclude on 11 November.

Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) commenced on 3rd November marking the event’s debut in Asia despite resistance from anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers and human rights campaigners. The Federation of Gay Games, GGHK and international delegations marched in to kick off the opening ceremony. The Hong Kong lion was also included in the acts which were presented next. Wan Chai, a bustling business district is the location of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Participants attend the opening ceremony of the Gay Games in Hong Kong. (Source: Reuters)

Lisa Lam, co-chair of GGHK observed, “The vision of the Gay Games has always been to create a sports, arts, and culture festival that celebrates participation, inclusion, and personal best.” She expressed that GGHK is proud at launching the first-ever all-gender multisports category which is going to enable competitors of all genders to participate alongside one another.

There are going to be more than 2,300 competitors from 45 countries for the sporting and cultural events which would include mahjong and dragon boat racing. The tournament is being co-hosted by Guadalajara, in Mexico. The tournament would end on 11 November.

The event is going forward as scheduled, despite criticism from certain Hong Kong politicians who voice concerns about traditional family values and national security. Human rights advocates have also demanded that it be cancelled citing affiliations with pro-authoritarian leaders. Nevertheless, the organisers stressed that they are dedicated to upholding regional laws and customs.

Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriage and does not have any laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The government has two years to create a legislative framework legalising same-sex unions, according to a September verdict by the country’s highest court. The administration directed the organisers in August that the games had to be held in a “lawful, safe, and orderly manner” and declined to send representatives to the inaugural ceremony. The purpose of this occasion is not to promote legislative or political reforms.

Furthermore, the government has not provided funding for the games, in contrast to its co-host. The authorities might be using this as a diplomatic ploy considering China’s hardline stance on homosexuality and its suppression of LGBTQ+ rights. Politicians and certain conservative groups in Hong Kong have opposed the games and some demonstrators have dubbed them “obscene.”

The city was subjected to the National Security Law (NSL) by Beijing in 2020 following months of anti-government demonstrations. The statute imposes life sentences on those found guilty of subversion, terrorism and cooperation with foreign powers. Despite calls for her resignation from anti-LGBTQ+ legislators, Regina Ip, convener of the city’s main decision-making body, the Executive Council was the only pro-establishment person present at the opening session.

“The holding of the Gay Games in Hong Kong is a strong testimony to the diversity, inclusion, and unity of our city,” the lawmaker voiced in her welcome address. She added, “Equal opportunity and non-discrimination are highly treasured by our government and our people.”

Legislator Junius Ho, a supporter of Beijing wrote to John Lee, the mayor of the city on 2nd November and charged that the tournament’s goal is to encourage same-sex marriage which is against the NSL. He launched a petition against the games on the grounds that they endanger national security. Supporting the games, he claimed, would essentially imply endorsing laws allowing same-sex marriage which “stands against Chinese traditions and moral values.”

Furthermore, five human rights advocates from Hong Kong demanded that the June Games be cancelled and alleged that those in charge “have aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong”.

Taiwan is sending athletes to Guadalajara instead of Hong Kong due to security worries around the NSL. For the “personal safety of the athletes,” the Taiwan Gay Sports and Movement Association decided that it would not be sending a national delegation to the games. It was the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The excitement was not dampened by opposition and onlookers cheered, yelled, and waved prior to the the opening event. Gerrit Schulz, an 80-year-old competitor from Germany’s Berlin noted, “This is a good idea because especially China is not very fond of the gays. So this is to become visible in China as queer people.” The games are scheduled to be hosted at a number of private locations as well as universities and educational institutions.

The Gay Games are an international athletic competition for athletes who identify as LGBTQ+. It has taken place in many North American and European locations, including Sydney, Paris, and San Francisco. 

Around 2,400 people, both heterosexual and LGBTQ+ from roughly 40 regions are expected to attend the nine-day event to compete across 18 categories which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic. They are going to compete in a wide range of sports, such as swimming, and tennis as well as culturally significant competitions like mahjong and dragon boat racing. In addition, the rugged terrain of Lantau Island would provide the backdrop for a new trail running competition.

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