British lesbian loses Hong Kong legal bid

11th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A British lesbian on Friday lost a legal challenge against Hong Kong authorities to grant her a visa to live and work there with her partner, in a setback for LGBT equality in the territory.

QT, as she is referred to in court, entered into a civil partnership in Britain in 2011 and moved to Hong Kong the same year, after her partner was offered a job in the city.

But she was denied a dependent visa and has instead stayed in Hong Kong on a visitor visa, which does not allow her to work.

The socially conservative southern Chinese city does not recognise gay marriage and only decriminalised homosexuality in 1991.

"The applicant has failed in her grounds in support of this judicial review, I therefore dismiss the application," High Court judge Thomas Au said in a written judgement.

"To effectively accept a same-sex-marriage-like relationship to be equivalent to a married status in Hong Kong is not permissible under the laws of Hong Kong as they now stand," Au said.

Immigration law in the former British colony does not explicitly mention gay couples, but states that only the "spouse" of a person permitted to work in the territory may apply for a dependent visa.

"This decision while disappointing is not altogether unexpected," QT's lawyer Michael Vidler told reporters after the judgement was handed down.

"QT is a strong and very determined young woman. We will overcome this setback and as she said, we'll continue the fight," Vidler said, adding that QT will be challenging the judgement and that an appeal will be filed within 28 days.

If the challenge fails in the Court of Appeal, she will still be able to continue to the Court of Final Appeal.

- 'Hugely disappointing' -

Activists and members of the LGBT community expressed disappointment at the High Court decision.

"This judgement is very disappointing, it allows the government to continue to perpetuate the separation of loving couples," activist group Pink Alliance vice chair Billy Leung told AFP.

"The judgement continues to (keep) foreign same-sex talent away from Hong Kong and if we do not change such policy...then it diminishes our attractiveness in attracting overseas talent," Leung added.

"They portray themselves as a destination for international corporations and issues like this are going to be a problem for them," a senior expatriate business executive told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The executive, who works at an American corporation in the city and married a Chinese man in the US last year, applied for a dependent visa in Hong Kong six months ago.

"It's hugely disappointing," he said of the court's decision.

At a court hearing in May of last year, the government's counsel Stewart Wong said that "marriage can only be heterosexual."

Allowing same-sex couples to reside in Hong Kong through dependent visas would "open a door too wide", Wong said.

© 2016 AFP

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