Lesbian expatriate wins lawsuit in Hong Kong over spousal visa application

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On September 26th, the Hong Kong Appeal Court ruled in favour of a British woman, identified only as QT, whose application for a spousal visa had been rejected because her partner, who is working in Hong Kong, is a woman.

QT and her partner had already entered a civil partnership in the UK, before her partner got her job in Hong Kong; however, when QT tried to apply for a dependent’s visa in Hong Kong, she was refused with the motivation that she was not a ‘spouse’. QT then sued Hong Kong immigration last year and lost the first case, but she appealed and on the 25th of September won the appeal.

In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, same-sex marriage is not legal; however, the court decided that this could not be a reason for discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the verdict Zhang Juneng, the Chief Justice of the Court, points out that the core of monogamy is two people willingly united for a lifetime, and this is no longer the exclusive of heterosexual couples. Furthermore, refusing the legal partner of a foreign employee entry into Hong Kong with a spousal visa could put foreigners off from staying or working in the city.

According to the Apple Daily (苹果日报) report, lawyers active in the LGBT field in Hong Kong have expressed approval for the verdict. Chen Zhiquan, the first MP to come out as gay, called the ruling a “great victory for LGBT partners who apply for a spousal visa”. However, he also said that the lawsuit will have little impact on protecting the rights and interests of LGBT Hong Kongers, because the court verdict was limited to foreign LGBT couples who have already registered a union abroad and have at least one side working in Hong Kong. He expressed his hope that this case could set a precedent for local LGBT couples who have already been united in a civil partnership abroad to receive the same protections as heterosexual married couples. At the same time, a lot of voices within Hong Kong have argued that the Appeal Court judges do not represent the whole of society; there is certainly still a long way to go for same-sex marriages to be legalized in Hong Kong.