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It's discrimination, says gay rights group

in HONG KONG, 26/10/2011

Local gay rights advocates blew their top, accusing the government of discriminating against homosexuals through a lecture on homosexual conversion therapy.

Materials from the lecture, entitled "Giving Guidance to Same Sex Attracted Youths," are said to have been distributed to social workers by the Social Welfare Department (SWD).

The lecture, held on June 17 this year and delivered by Hong Kwai-wah, a registered psychiatrist and president of a Christian NGO, New Creation Association, has sparked concern and doubts over the government's stance on homosexuality. Hong is said to be regarded as a controversial figure who believes that homosexuality can be cured.

According to some of the lecture material, which the gay rights group Rainbow Action Hong Kong claims to have obtained from a "reliable source", there is a recent social trend of "normalization of homosexuality".

Some of the slides shown at the lecture explain that the orientation of homosexuality could have originated from an "unhealthy parent-children relationship", "experience of sexual abuse or same-sex sexual behavior" or "serious emotional harm caused by the opposite sex", according to the group.

They also include contents trying to prove the possibility of changing "homosexual orientation". Statistics offered by the internationally-famed anti-homosexual group, Exodus, which previously endorsed conversion therapy, showed 38 percent of cases were successful.

Rainbow Action Hong Kong members questioned that number, pointing out that 23 percent of the cases were actually classed as "chastity". The group also accused Hong of "pathologizing" homosexuality.

"Telling people to change their sexual orientation is like telling black people to whiten their skin. This is discrimination," said member Joseph Cho.

In response, Hong told China Daily that although he believed that homosexuality can be changed, he denied conducting any conversion therapy in his own clinic or teaching in the workshop.

Hong said he also believed in "gay-affirmative therapy", meaning helping homosexual people recognizing their sexual orientation, and provided help to those "who embrace their sexual orientation to live a happier life, or are very dissatisfied with their homosexual relationships and who want to leave a homosexual lifestyle".

"I am exceedingly careful not to impose my Christian values on my patients. I do not judge people outside the church because the Bible teaches me not to," said Hong.

The department also denied that Hong had touched on conversion therapy, saying "any kind of therapy could have cases of success and failure".

According to an official reply received by Rainbow Action Hong Kong from Gloria Lee Cheung Yat-wai, the SWD's chief social worker in charge of staff development and training, the aim of the workshop was to "enhance social workers' understanding of adolescents attracted to people of the same sex, and improve their capability in dealing with these cases".

andrea@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

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