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Judge with long history of opposing LGBT rights appointed chief justice of Hong Kong’s highest court

Lily Wakefield April 2, 2020
Hong Kong

LGBT+ activists form a human chain around a rainbow flag during celebrations marking the fourth annual International Day Against Homophobia, 2008. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty)

Hong Kong LGBT+ activists have urged a newly-appointed chief justice to work with them on marriage equality, despite his history of denying queer rights.

Andrew Cheung Kui-nung will become the new chief justice of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal (the special administrative region’s highest court) in January provided his appointment is approved by the legislative council.

LGBT+ rights groups have urged him to work for equality, primarily by supporting same-sex marriage.

Tommy Chen, spokesperson at advocacy group Rainbow Action emphasised the importance of the courts in pushing LGBT+ rights forward.

“In Hong Kong, there are very limited ways to advocate LGBT+ human rights,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Since 1997, filing a judicial review has become a main way LGBT+ people to advocate for our rights.”

Top Hong Kong judge has a long history of blocking queer rights.

In 2010, when he was a high court judge, Cheung ruled against a trans woman marrying her boyfriend. 

Cheung said there was insufficient evidence “to demonstrate a shifted societal consensus in present-day Hong Kong regarding marriage to encompass a post-operative [trans woman]”.

In a separate case in 2018, he argued in court that Hong Kong’s de facto constitution favours heterosexual marriage. Cheung added that this meant same-sex couples not being able to marry was not discriminatory.

He claimed that if he allowed recognition of same-sex couples who were married outside of Hong Kong, it would “lead, almost inevitably, to similar extensions in other areas concerning, for instance, public housing, social welfare, public medical benefits, employment benefits and protection, pensions and life insurance”.

Although marriage equality doesn’t seem to be in the near future for Hong Kong, last month marked a step forward for LGBT+ rights when a judicial review ruled that a ban on same-sex couples accessing public housing was unlawful. 

More: Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, Chief Justice, court of final appeal, Hong Kong, marriage equality, same sex marriage

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