HSBC is accused of destroying the family unit and offending the entire population of Hong Kong… by displaying rainbow-coloured lion statues outside their headquarters. In what seems to be yet another temper tantrum by sign-toting, closed-minded evangelical social conservatives, the ugly and backward side of Hong Kong has again come to the fore.
Convenor of the “Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group” (what a mouthful) Roger Wong Wai-ming has put the case for their homophobia most eloquently. Wong (who happens to be the father of Joshua Wong Chi-fung) claimed that HSBC’s move to display painted lions and grant spousal benefits to the partners of employees was tantamount to “forcing every shareholder to recognise the homosexual lifestyle” and an “intrusion on the freedom of conscience”. Despite the numerous logical lapses he has made in the space of 14 words, his campaign has gained some support, with more than 1,800 people putting their names to it at the time of writing.
It’s not too difficult to see the folly in his argument. HSBC’s actions do not bind their shareholders to any way of thinking; HSBC, believe it or not, does not police their minds. (Though they probably do control your life savings). Their recognition of sexual minorities does not prevent shareholders from practising their religion, either, and shareholders are free to sell their shares if they disagree with the policies of HSBC. Furthermore, the bank has no obligation to listen to its shareholders on issues like these, which have no major effect on the way the company operates. Much like his son, it seems that logical thinking isn’t one of Wong’s strong suits.
Though this seems little more than a minor emotional outburst, there are in fact structural factors that allow this form of bigotry to survive in a modern society such as Hong Kong. A report by the Pew Research Centre found that the majority of degree holders, at least in America, were likely to hold socially liberal political opinions. Those without degrees were more likely to be conservative. Another study by the same organisation found a strong correlation between age and conservatism, which again isn’t much of a surprise to those familiar with Roger Wong’s group, which has also been protesting against unisex toilets at the University of Hong Kong.
To the majority of the Hong Kong population who believe in civil rights and equality, this farce serves as a reminder that there are still people in our city who don’t agree with the values that we take for granted. As such, it is time for us to educate people on the necessity of civil rights in a modern state and make sure that they are exposed to different viewpoints from a young age. Access to liberal higher education is one way to ensure that the next generation of Hongkongers remains receptive to social change. If we want to curb bigotry, we should curb it through education.