Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho opened fire at the upcoming Gay Games, an international LGBTQ+ sport and cultural event, by launching a petition demanding the Hong Kong government refrain from supporting the event, citing national security risks and harmful ideological influences.
The 11th Gay Games are set to begin in November 2023 in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico, however, pro-Beijing Hawish networks wanted the national security authorities to step in and scrap the event.
Junius Ho, one of Hong Kong's most vocal anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, launched the online petition on April 20. The event organizing body, Gay Games Hong Kong, has thus far remained silent and stated on Twitter that it would not “give oxygen to attempts to politicize our event.”
We do not respond to attacks from anonymous Twitter trolls, nor do we give oxygen to attempts to politicize our event. We shine light on darkness, and never waver from our mission: to build a world where diversity and inclusion are celebrated as forces for harmony and unity. 2/3
— GAY GAMES 11 HONG KONG 2023 (@GayGamesHK2023) April 22, 2023
Junius Ho’s petition claims the Gay Games would undermine Chinese tradition and the revival of Chinese civilization, and is urging national security authorities to step in and cancel the Games:
We believe the SAR government should not encourage and support the Gay Games. It would be interpreted as support for the LGBTQ+ movement or the legalization of same-sex marriage. Such an unhealthy trend has spread globally in more than 30 Western countries, which have legalized same-sex marriage thanks to this harmful ideology. This has triggered ethical and social problems and subverted conventional family values…
We have to address the issue from the perceptive of national security and prevent the potential hijacking of the Gay Games from destroying Hong Kong and subverting Chinese people’s traditions and ethics. We have to prevent the Gay Game from directly undermining our country’s goal of the Great Revival of the Chinese Nation…
To block the harmful ideology from spreading in Hong Kong and prevent the above risk, we are launching this petition and urging national security authorities to scrap the Gay Games. The “Hello Hong Kong!” publicity campaign should not rely on the Gay Games.
Ho expected 120,000 people to join the petition, which was shared in two dozen pro-Beijing activist groups like Politihk Social Strategic and fan clubs on Facebook, including police authorities support group and a Chris Tang (the city’s security chief) support group.
The Hong Kong government has thus far abstained from making any comment.
Anticipating political pressure from conservatives, Gay Games Hong Kong has previously adopted a depoliticised strategy by stressing the economic benefit of hosting the international event in Hong Kong and downplaying the city’s restriction on free expression as a non-issue.
However, for the international LGBTQ+ community, the right to same-sex marriage is indeed a major priority. In fact, the Gay Games Hong Kong organizers recently travelled to Japan to participate in the country’s pride parade, “Press on till Japan changes,” which demanded same-sex couples get the right to marriage. Japan rolled out a “partner” scheme, giving LGBTQ+ couples partial rights in 2022, but activists are demanding more.
We are looking forward to hosting you all in our dynamic city and sharing our culture and spirit. A huge thank you to our volunteers who made Gay Games Hong Kong a hit among visitors to Yoyogi Park. Register now!
— GAY GAMES 11 HONG KONG 2023 (@GayGamesHK2023) April 24, 2023
While the Hong Kong Gay Games expects visitors from the Japanese LGBTQ+ community in November, it is doubtful whether the city has the civic space for them to openly express their aspiration for same-sex marriage, particularly given Junius Ho's inflammatory rhetoric about queer issues being a threat to national security and the cultural security of the Chinese civilization — an idea upheld by the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Moreover, even after domestic gathering restrictions were lifted after the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong national security police have been pressing activists and civic groups to withdraw protest and rally applications citing concerns over potential hijacking by violent groups. Activists were forced to cancel rallies for International Women’s Day and the May 1 International Labour Day this year.
When rationalizing the so-called “hijacking risk,” authorities pointed to online social media posts which could “incite” participants to take violent action. Although, in the case of International Women’s Day, Ming Pao, a local newspaper, found that the online calls for violence were made by Facebook users active in pro-establishment groups.
Last month, citing safety concerns, the police authorities demanded organizers of a district protest strictly limit the number of participants to 100, make all participants wear numbered identification tags, walk within a cordon line and abide by the anti-mask law, which means participants could not wear masks, heavy makeup, or face coverings. In addition, the authorities also screened all slogans appearing in the rally.
Hence, even if the Gay Games organizer manages to host a public gathering to celebrate diversity in November, participants will have to abide by the new rally rules, as @sciscisic pointed out on Twitter:
Is Gay Games trying to bring to the participants authentic experience of national security surveillance? https://t.co/S5ST8ZuQ1d
— как (@sciscisic) April 24, 2023
Now that the pro-Beijing activists have spoken out against the Gay Games, online comments for or against the event could also be cited as a safety risk. In the leadup to the games, the organizers will have to answer police concerns unless they have support from the Hong Kong government.