Hong Kong’s government rejected calls this week to include a question on sexual orientation in its 2021 census.
Lawmaker Michael Tien had urged the Census and Statistics Department to include such a question to help inform government policy.
But, Commissioner of the department Leslie Tang on Monday (7 January) told Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) did not agree.
He claimed people would not give truthful answers.
‘Given the current sentiment, I believe with questions related to sex minorities, I don’t think we can get accurate data on that’ he said, according to RTHK.
Hong Kong’s only gay legislator, Raymond Chan, has been raising the issue in LegCo since 2012.
He said said even if initial data was not entirely accurate the government should ’take the first step’.
‘If the Government does not try to collect any data, we will never know or learn how to do a better job when it comes to LGBT data’.
‘Disrespected and belittled’
Professor Suen Yiu-tung, an Associate Director of the Gender Research Centre at the Chinese University, told RTHK there were two reasons to include sexual orientation in the next census.
The first, he said, was the need for empirical evidence to inform law and policy making.
The second reason, he told the radio show, was symbolic. ‘If you are not counted, you do not count’ he said.
‘When [LGBTI people] are not included it almost feels like they don’t exist in the eyes of the Hong Kong government’.
‘They feel disrespected and belittled’.
Chan told Gay Star News that concerns over how to include non-binary residents in the census revealed how the government is letting down its LGBTI population.
‘Review of LGBT laws and policies is critical. Without this, no reliable or consistent data can be collected and our community will remain invisible’ he said.
LGBTI rights in Hong Kong
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Hong Kong. What’s more, there is currently no legislation to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
But, last week, two gay men won the right to challenge laws banning same-sex marriage.
A 21-year-old University Hong Kong student, known as TF, and a 31-year-old activist, known as STK, are leading the challenges.
In July, however, Hong Kong’s LGBTI had a reason to celebrate.
The Court of Final Appeal ruled the immigration department must recognize overseas same-sex marriages when issuing spousal visas.