Hong Kong holds first Asian leg of Gay Games amid security and rights concerns

A volunteer attends a news conference ahead of the Gay Games in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2023. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Despite requests for a ban from politicians and rights activists who oppose LGBTQ initiatives, Hong Kong will be the first Asian city to host the Gay Games starting on Friday, co-hosting them with a Mexican town in one of the financial hub’s most significant events since COVID-19.

Although same-sex marriage is not recognized in the Chinese-ruled city and there is no legislation against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQ community has achieved some legal victories this year.

The most important was a verdict from the country’s highest court in September, which gave the government two years to create a framework of laws recognizing same-sex unions.

It is anticipated that about 2,300 athletes from 45 nations—including the United States, South Korea, China, and Britain—will compete, according to the organizers, Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK).

The body’s co-chair, Alan Lang, stated during a news conference on Thursday that “not only have we been able to introduce the games to the region, we have the highest number of participants ever from Asia join the Gay Games in its 41-year history.”

The administration of the former British colony has granted permission for the Gay Games to continue until November 11. However, the organizers have been instructed to adhere to rules and regulations in a “safe and orderly manner.”The organizing committee of the games stated last week, “Our goal is to provide a platform for sports, arts, and culture that promotes inclusivity and diversity, not to advocate for any specific political or legislative changes.”

Chinese sports and cultural activities like mahjong and dragon boat racing will be on display, along with a brand-new trail running competition set to take place on the island of Lantau, which is hilly.

However, Taiwan’s delegation will not be able to visit due to concerns over the national security law Beijing recently imposed on Hong Kong.

According to Yang Chih-chun of Taiwan’s Gay Sports and Movement Association, “the main reason… this time is that the safety of Taiwanese players cannot be guaranteed.” She also noted that sending the athletes had been “a painful one.”

The athletes from Taiwan will instead go to Guadalajara, a city in western Mexico that is co-hosting the games concurrently.

Several legislators from Hong Kong have publicly expressed their objection to the event, citing concerns for national security, a subversion of traditional Chinese family values, and adherence to a “western ideology.”

Five human rights activists from Hong Kong demanded the cancellation of the games, claiming that the organizers had “aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution” in Hong Kong.

“We’ve always complied with and respected the law… As co-chair of GGHK, Lisa Lam expressed the organization’s expectation that all attendees will abide by the rules and customs of Hong Kong on Thursday.

The opening and closing ceremonies are set to take place in a stadium in the bustling Wan Chai business area. In contrast, many other events will occur in private spaces, universities, or schools.

The national security law of Beijing was implemented in 2020 following months of anti-government demonstrations. It imposes life sentences for offenses including terrorism, subversion, and coordination with foreign powers.

Following the 2019 demonstrations, mainland China and Hong Kong have stated that the security law has provided stability.

Hi, I'm John, a seasoned sports writer with a passion for football. With over 10 years of experience covering the NFL, I provide in-depth analysis and engaging writing that keeps readers informed and entertained.