Widower denied the right to carry out his husband’s final wishes because their love was queer
A widower is taking on the Hong Kong government after he was denied the right to carry out his husband’s final wishes.
Henry Li Yik-ho told the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) he was unable to identify his husband’s body and make his funeral arrangements because his status as a spouse is not recognised by the Hong Kong government.
His late husband, Edgar Ng, had told him in a final WhatsApp message that he wished for his ashes to be scattered into the sea.
But the government currently does not recognise Li as his husband’s next-of-kin, meaning he cannot attend to Ng’s funeral arrangements. Instead, Li said, that responsibility has fallen on his late husband’s mother.
“Edgar’s mother is now demanding that I be excluded from the scattering of Edgar’s ashes and that I move out from our matrimonial home,” Li told HKFP on Monday (8 March).
Before his death by suicide in December 2020, Ng had brought two judicial review proceedings against the Hong Kong government seeking equal rights for same-sex couples. One case concerned a rule that prevented him from living with his husband, Li, in a government-subsidised flat they bought a year after they married in the UK. The other was related to inheritance laws.
In September, the High Court ruled in Ng’s favour, granting him the right to equal homeownership with his husband. But the government still refused to recognise same-sex marriages, and is currently appealing against the judgment.
Widower denied right to organise late husband’s arrangements ‘hurt and offended’
Li said a government forensic pathologist told him he could not be designated as the “official identifier” of Ng’s body without authorisation from Ng’s mother. This was because their marriage was not recognised in Hong Kong.
His application for judicial review submitted to the High Court said this moment was “particularly hurtful and offensive” to Li. It continued: “The forensic pathologist’s statement demeaned, disrespected and diminished the dignity of the marriage between the Applicant and his husband.”
According to court documents acquired by HKFP, Ng’s mother, who met the pathologist along with Li at the time, authorised him to be the official identifier and to deal with Ng’s after-death arrangements.
But Li said his relationship with Ng’s mother has since deteriorated.
He said she has asked that he return all personal possessions and relevant documents relating to her deceased son. Li told HKFP via text that he feels “deeply hurt, but hopeful for justice to be done”.
He explained: “When your spouse dies, you expect dignity for your spouse and yourself.
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“You expect that you will be allowed and empowered to carry out your duties to your spouse such as identifying their body, arranging their funeral and arranging their cremation or burial.
“All of these rights are protected by law but they are denied to married same-sex couples.
“This kind of discrimination is not acceptable in our society.”
Though homosexuality is legal in Hong Kong, same-sex marriages are not recognised.
There is also no protection against employment or housing discrimination for LGBT+ people who live in Hong Kong, according to EqualDex.
The Hong Kong government does recognise the rights of trans people to change gender, but this legal recognition requires undergoing gender affirmation surgery.