Pink politics


He hasn’t started his job yet but Raymond Chan Chi-chuen is making history as the newly appointed legislator of the New Territories East district. Why? Because he’s done something remarkable. He’s emerged from the closet and been voted into power. That’s a huge statement in the story of Hong Kong.

Statistically, we assume there must have been other gay politicians in Hong Kong but none have ever had the courage to talk about it before. Chan is now the only openly gay public servant in our city’s history – and we believe he is the only openly gay politician in the entire Chinese-speaking world. All the eyes in our LGBT community are now set on Chan to see if he might be the game changer we’ve been waiting for when it comes to LGBT rights.

Chan – also known as ‘Slow Beat’ from his days as an entertainment radio host – is hardly slow at all when it comes to politics. Within the two years he’s been politically active, he’s shown assertiveness, articulation and he’s also proved he won’t back down during heated debates. “I’ve always been passionate about the progress of Hong Kong in terms of universal suffrage and education,” the politician, who is part of the liberally progressive People Power party, tells Time Out.

Chan has never denied his pro-LGBT stance and, even during his election, he made it clear that he supports the implementation of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance. “The misconception is that I purposefully came out after the election,” he says. “In fact, a journalist asked me during my campaign if I was gay and I answered truthfully. However, the story was published after I had won, making people believe I was actively trying to conceal my sexuality during the campaign. The truth is – if anyone had asked, I would not have lied. It would be odd though if there was a requirement to ask every candidate about their sexuality prior to a debate. It’s about the issues, not the candidate’s sexuality.”

However, some voters don’t see it the same way Chan does. He has received some backlash from a few voters since people became fully aware he is gay saying they wouldn’t have voted for him if they knew about his sexual orientation. One person was even harsh enough to label him a ‘faggot’. “It’s expected,” says Chan, “since homophobia still exists. But, for the most part, I have received a lot of support.”
Regardless of the negative comments, Chan’s main priority is to focus on the issues that he has been standing for in politics. “Some voters fear that I might only pursue gay interest topics,” he says, “while others are hoping that I do make a stand for the LGBT community. It’s going to be a juggle – but I know I have a responsibility towards both.”
Some would say that gay rights are still not appropriately addressed in Hong Kong. Politicians avoid the subject like the plague and the public often treats it as a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’. But Chan hopes to change these attitudes by putting himself on the frontline and letting the public see him as an ‘exceptional’ gay man. “I don’t mind being a role-model,” he says. “People will have an easier time accepting homosexuality if they can put a face to it. I just hope I don’t screw up and live up to the role.”

Chan has already agreed to participate in this year’s Pride Parade as well as the seminar for transgender-inspired stage performance, Dream of the Mermaid. “Hong Kong needs more politicians to support gay events,” he says. “Ma Ying-jiu goes to Taiwan Pride. Why doesn’t it happen in Hong Kong? It’s controversial, that’s why.” Perhaps one day the Chief Executive will show his or her open support for the gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgenders in Hong Kong. But, for now, we’re wishing Chan every bit of luck. Perhaps it’s the start of a Chan 2017 campaign?


Arthur Tam

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