Hong Kong’s Court of Appeals rejected a bid earlier today from a dozen major banks which had stepped forward to help a British lesbian woman acquire a dependent visa to live with her partner in the city, which has gained a reputation for not being the most welcoming place for LGBT individuals.
The woman, known as QT, entered a civil partnership with another woman, SS, in 2011. But when SS left the UK for a job in Hong Kong, QT could only enter the country on a tourist visa. The Immigration Department denied her application for a domestic visa — the kind regularly distributed to straight couples in the same situation.
QT is taking her case to court in the hope that her relationship will be recognized as valid, and until today she had a host of prominent banks looking to back her up in court.
A dozen big banks — Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Nomura, AIG Insurance, ANZ, Societe Generale, ABN Amro, RBC, BNY Mellon and State Street Corp. — filed a submission to interfere with QT’s case, claiming that they could provide, “a more rounded picture” of the case’s implications, according to Quartz. Most notably, that the final decision could either encourage or dissuade talented LGBT workers from coming to Hong Kong.
The city’s only openly gay legislator Ray Chan spoke up in favor of the bank’s decision, tweeting yesterday that it was the “right thing to do for business”.
— Ray Chan (@slowbeat_chan) June 7, 2017
However, on Thursday morning, the Court of Appeals rejected any attempt at intervention from the banks, claiming that their perspective just wasn’t necessary.
“The court can easily see the more rounded picture from the employers’ perspective without [the financial institutions’] input,” wrote Chief Judge Andrew Cheung in his judgement, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. “The proposed intervenors will most likely be repeating the points QT may wish to make anyway.”
The rejection comes as a sharp blow for QT and the rest of the LGBT community in Hong Kong. While a court decision last month put Taiwan on the path to becoming the first in Asia to legalize gay marriage, the fight for marriage equality in Hong Kong has been met with strong resistance.
Back in April, a Hong Kong court ruled that the same-sex partner of a civil servant could receive spousal benefits, but that ruling was repealed only a few weeks later, partially as a result of pressure from anti-LGBT groups, SCMP reports.
Chan voiced his disappointment with this latest decision on Facebook, writing that: “If the court really understands the case as it says in its judgement to reject the 12 banks’ applications, then it should also understand that the Immigration Department’s refusal to issue a dependent visa to same-sex couples is a violation of the government’s financial policy.”
Aside from Chan, few politicians and public figures speak up for Hong Kong’s LGBT community. As one commenter on a HKFP article noted: “When even BANKS stand up for minorities you know something is seriously wrong with the government.”
Last year, HSBC unveiled a pair of rainbow-colored lion statues outside its headquarters in Central, sparking protests from local anti-LGBT groups.
Meanwhile, QT’s lawyer, Michael Vidler, spoke to HKFP on his client’s behalf, saying that she was disappointed at the court’s decision not to allow the banks to intervene, but that she respected the decision. Still, Vidler believes that the banks’ involvement ultimately helped the LGBT community, even though they won’t make an appearance in court.
“The application itself is a historic event in the advancement of LGBTI rights in Hong Kong,” he said. “Never before have so many major employers in an industry which is the cornerstone to Hong Kong’s economic success, so unequivocally and publicly shown their support for LGBTI rights in Hong Kong.”
By Caroline Roy
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