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ASIFMA backs Hong Kong petition urging recognition of foreign same-sex marriages

ASIFMA backs Hong Kong petition urging recognition of foreign same-sex marriages

The High Court in Hong Kong has been asked to rule on a decision by the regional Director of Immigration not to recognize foreign, legally registered same-sex partnerships and marriages.

The decision is being challenged by a woman who entered into a civil partnership in the UK but who now resides with her partner in Hong Kong.

The hearing of the so-called ‘QT case’ is expected to take place in Hong Kong’s High Court on 14-15 May.

Hong Kong does not currently recognize same-sex partnerships – whether between citizens or those from abroad.

Community Business, a not-for-profit advocacy organization based in the region, has launched an urgent petition ahead of the court’s review.

The CEO for Community Business, Fern Ngai, says this is an issue highly relevant to the business community – particularly in regards to its ability to attract LGBTI talent from abroad.

‘We are urging the Director of Immigration to reconsider its decision to refuse to recognize foreign, legally registered same-sex partnerships and marriages,’ said Ngai in a statement.

‘The petition page outlines why this is an issue for businesses who operate in Hong Kong who aim to attract, engage, and retain top talent, and the wider implications to Hong Kong’s competitiveness as Asia’s world city. ’

The petition explains that gay people in registered relationships face immigration and employment problems that heterosexual people in relationships do not have to face.

‘This differential treatment deters people from bringing their skills and talent to Hong Kong and once here, from remaining, after they experience the practical difficulties of their spouses living in Hong Kong without an identity card, being denied access to services and being unable to work – unlike heterosexual counterparts, simply because of their sexual orientation.’

As well as being signed by individuals, the petition has today received the backing of ASIFMA (Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets) – an independent, regional trade association with over 80 member firms.

In a statement to its members sent out today, ASIFMA Chief Executive, Mark Austen said: ‘ASIFMA has signed an online petition organized by Community Business to urge Hong Kong’s Director of Immigration to reconsider the decision to refuse to recognize foreign, legally registered same-sex partnerships and marriages.

‘Many of our members have told us this is an issue that impacts our industry and therefore, we are doing what we can to lend our support.’

ASIFMA members include ANZ, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Bank of China, Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and Société Générale, among others.

The ‘QT case’ has been brought before the High Court by a woman who has been with her spouse for the past decade. She is being represented by local law firm, Vidler & Co. Solicitors. On its Facebook page, Vidler & Co. explained the history to the case.

‘QT and her spouse, who have been together for over 10 years and who have registered their a Civil Partnership in the UK, have repeatedly applied for a Dependent Visa for QT, but have been refused because they are gay.

‘Consequently, despite constitutional guarantees of equality before the law and the avowed commitment by the Hong Kong Government not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, QT has not been treated the same as a heterosexual spouse in the same position as her.

‘As a result, despite being otherwise eligible for a Dependent Visa, QT can only remain in Hong Kong with her spouse as a visitor; she cannot attain permanent residence after 7 years despite living here; nor is she allowed to work.

‘The challenge seeks findings from the Court that (a) the decision of the Director of Immigration is discriminatory and unreasonable (b) the relevant immigration policy has been misapplied and (c) that the decision is unconstitutional.’

Both ASIFMA and Vidler & Co. have been approached for further comment.