Rainbow lions in HK spark debate on LGBT rights

Two lion figures in rainbow colours being displayed in front of HSBC's building in Hong Kong's business district. The art installation has drawn the ire of conservatives, who are petitioning to have it removed.
Two lion figures in rainbow colours being displayed in front of HSBC's building in Hong Kong's business district. The art installation has drawn the ire of conservatives, who are petitioning to have it removed.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • A pair of rainbow-painted lions displayed in front of one of Hong Kong's most iconic buildings has provoked a debate over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Hong Kong.

The multi-coloured art pieces were placed in front of HSBC's landmark building in the business district, beside two famous bronze lions that the bank first installed in 1935.

An important symbol of power in Chinese culture, the bank's bronze guardians have come to represent prosperity in Hong Kong.

The rainbow installation, painted by local artist Michael Lam for HSBC's "Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity" campaign, has drawn the ire of conservatives, with some groups launching a petition to have the artwork removed.

The petition states that the rainbow colours, symbolic of the LGBT community, are emasculating and deprive "all the strength and stamina of the original lions".

It adds that the statues are "causing annoyance to the feelings of many Hong Kong people as well as trampling on the existing family values".

The petition is organised by Mr Roger Wong, an outspoken figure against gay rights and the father of Mr Joshua Wong, who famously led Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy movement.

HSBC's Facebook page has drawn thousands of "likes" and many comments expressing admiration for its campaign. Passers-by have also stopped to take photos and selfies with the statues. "A bank needs to be more inclusive rather than just cater to one group of people," said Mr Brian Yip, who works in finance.

But some have also expressed anger online. "Have you seen what effects a small group of gays would have on our society's systems and the next generation?

"If HSBC continues to support the rainbow movement I'm definitely going to cancel my account," said one comment on Facebook.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'Rainbow lions in HK spark debate on LGBT rights'. Print Edition | Subscribe