Two leading transport companies in Hong Kong have refused to allow an advert showing a same-sex couple to be displayed.
The advert, which showed two men strolling hand in hand along a beach, was part of a broader Cathay Pacific Airways rebranding campaign called “Move Beyond” and was intended to highlight the airline’s attitude towards diversity.
But both the Airport Authority, which runs the city’s airport, and the MTR Corporation rejected the LGBT content, according to two sources familiar with the matter. They said the LGBT advert was the only one from the campaign not selected to be displayed at railway stations.
At 5.30pm today, however, MTR Corp posted on Facebook to say that advertising booking is contracted out to an agency, and stating their commintement to equal opportunities and diversity, saying “It does not tolerate any form of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, family status or any other factor”.
Several other adverts from the rebrand were on display in prominent sites across Hong Kong, including one of Asia-Pacific’s largest LCD screens at Sogo department store in Causeway Bay and major MTR interchange stations including Central.
A Cathay Pacific spokesman declined to comment on the advert not being shown on the MTR but was unapologetic about its message of diversity.
“We embrace diversity and inclusion. We are very diverse and our customers are, too,” the spokesman said.
Two Hong Kong students commented on how the move was disappointing on a personal level. “In the light of recent events where Taiwan will be legalising gay marriage and an Equality Bill was introduced to the Senate in the US, this felt like a step back,” said Dasha Okolovich, a 16-year-old student at Harrow International School Hong Kong, who identifies as bisexual and non-binary.
“I appreciate the recognition of the need for representation by Cathay Pacific; however, it was not followed by enforcement, the showing of this specific advert was restricted, which enforces the belief within the general public that being gay is something that stands out … and that we have to be [protected] from.”
“Hong Kong loves to pride its self in being 'Asia’s world city’, but for people living here, there is a tonne of discrimination that goes on ... To many, it can seem almost like the LGBTQ+ community is silenced here as there is a fear of being found out by one’s parent, employer or schoolmates, as people can never know how others will react in HK; too often, people here are excluded for being gay,” said Zachary Perez Jones, who identifies as gay.
The 14-year-old South Island School student went on to say, “If corporations such as the MTR, and government departments such as the Airport Authority, continue to set a precedent where a simple advert is banned for having a gay couple in it, how can we expect the Hong Kong community to become more accepting and tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community?”