Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has said that same-sex marriage will not be coming to the region because it is still “controversial.”
Addressing a Bloomberg Southeast Asia business summit on Thursday (March 21), the head of the autonomous region of China was pressed on whether same-sex unions would be permitted.
She said: “I’m afraid not. This remains a very controversial issue in Hong Kong.”
Same-sex couples are currently afforded no legal recognition in Hong Kong, which is a major international business hub.
LGBT+ activists had hoped that the city was inching closer to recognising same-sex unions in 2018, when it began to grant visas to same-sex spouses following a court ruling.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam: New same-sex spouse visa laws ‘help attract overseas talent’
Lam added: “The relaxation in immigration arrangements… does help, although that arose from the government losing a case in court, although in a way that does help to address the issue of attracting overseas talent.
“Now, under the immigration policy we abide by, this court ruling, this is also an indication of the rule of law in Hong Kong.
“We will give dependent visas to same-sex partners of people who work [in Hong Kong.]”
Hong Kong currently defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
In July 2018, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal ruled that same-sex couples who have entered unions elsewhere must have their relationships recognised as part of the spousal visa application process, following a high-profile challenge from a lesbian couple.
The Hong Kong government later confirmed that visa rules would be extended to people who have “entered into a same-sex civil partnership, same-sex civil union [or] ‘same-sex marriage’,” using quotation marks around the phrase ‘same-sex marriage.’
— Bloomberg (@business) March 21, 2019
A spokesperson stressed: “The revision has nothing to do with legal recognition of same-sex civil partnership, same-sex civil union [or] ‘same-sex marriage’… in Hong Kong.
“Nor should there be any expectation of such plan by the Government.”
Hong Kong faces lawsuit for equal marriage
In November, lawmakers in Hong Kong have narrowly rejected a bill that would have opened up the doors for same-sex civil unions.
In January, a gay couple filed a second lawsuit to legalise equal marriage in Hong Kong.
The two men, aged 21 and 31, lodged a claim at Hong Kong’s high court, arguing that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is a violation of their right to equality under the autonomous territory’s Bill of Rights and basic law.