In a move sure to leave Beijing squirming, media outlets and LGBT activists (for, of course, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) have praised Raymond Chan Chi-chuen as the first Hong Kong legislator to come out of the closet.
Chan, a former disc jockey and CEO of the Internet radio station Hong Kong Reporter, was elected September 9 to the Legislative Council on the pro-democracy People Power ticket.
“Bravo, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen!” gushed South China Morning Post columnist Alex Lo. “For the first time, we have a directly elected lawmaker who is openly gay. That took courage.”
“We are all very happy and heartened about the good news,” echoed Rex Yiu, a member of Element, an LGBT group in Hong Kong. “This is really a step forward towards a more open society.”
Added the South China Morning Post in an unsigned editorial: “[H]is readiness to come out of the closet is commendable…. This is what a diverse and pluralistic society should embrace.”
Less pleased amid the hoopla may be mainland Communist leaders, who Chan and his party have targeted as anti-democratic and too conservative. Most recently, Chan’s radio station helped rally tens of thousands of demonstrators to the annual and contentious 1 July human rights protests, marking the handover of Hong Kong from Britain.
As a relatively young (Chan is 40), progressive gay man, Chan on paper represents a triple threat to Hong Kong and Beijing’s pro-establishment old guard. The unicameral LegCo is responsible for everything from passing and repealing laws, to setting the region’s budget, to signing off on the appointment of judges. As one of just 70 members, that gives Chan influence. And with two additional People Power members also elected to LegCo, Chan emerges as a genuine player.
By the look of it, social issues will be on his front burner. Despite Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan demographics, homosexuality has only been legal there since 1991, and only since 1997 on the mainland. Anti-gay attitudes are still common, and Chan — known better to many by his on-air persona “Slow Beat” — says he will act as an advocate for LGBT rights and other reformist issues.
“There is no protection for gay couples,” Chan told AFP news service. “I hope we can enact laws to ban discrimination against one’s sexual orientation as soon as possible and of course, the long-term goal is to amend the laws to allow same-sex marriage.”