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New play reveals ugly chapter of Hong Kong LGBT rights history

New play reveals ugly chapter of Hong Kong LGBT rights history

A new play performed in London’s Chinatown on Saturday (25 May) retells a murky and tragic chapter of Hong Kong’s LGBT rights history.

In 1980 John MacLennan was found dead, shot five times in his chest, by a team of policeman who were about to arrest him for soliciting male prostitutes. Just over a year earlier MacLennan was sacked from the police for ‘gross indecency’.

An investigation failed to discover how MacLennan had died and conspiracies emerged about his death being linked to his knowledge of a group of heavily closeted Hong Kong gay officials.

Former police offer and retired director general of London’s Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Agnes Allcock was inspired to write about the case, which she witnessed first hand as a friend and colleague of MacLennan, in a screenwriting class in 2005.

Allcock’s half-hour play Behind the Curtain, performed in Cantonese and English, is still in development. It explores ‘the power of public opinion, the accountability of government, and the battle for one’s human right to love freely’.

‘The atmosphere back then was extremely repressive and discriminatory,’ said Allcock, South China Morning Post reports. ‘Gay lawyers, policemen etc were susceptible to being blackmailed by undesirable characters.’

Homosexual sex was decriminalized in Hong Kong in 1991, but there is still no anti-discrimination legislation to protect LGBT citizens in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, which has its own government and laws.

In January Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung said there would be no public consultation looking into anti-discrimination legislation to protect LGBT people, which prompted protests.