My op-ed was originally published on the Hong Kong Free Press on November 6, 2018 in response to the Hong Kong media’s focus on the politics behind Pussy Riot and lack of attention to the Miles of Love LGBTQ travel advocacy forum co-organized by Planet Ally and All Out (UK) that brought Olga Kurachyova and Nika Nikulshina, as well as many internationally accomplished activists, to Hong Kong.
Yes, the cancellation of Badiucao’s show opening in Hong Kong this weekend is newsworthy. Equally so is the encouragement that feminist punk band Pussy Riot’s members gave for Hong Kong’s young political activists. But equally so is that they participated in a modestly sized LGBTQ travel advocacy forum, Miles of Love, that had over 35 presenters from 15 countries in a cozy ballroom at the Eaton HK in Kowloon.
Kurachyova spoke on the sports panel, which included FIFA’s first transgender athlete representing American Samoa, Jaiyah Saelua, Singapore Paralympian Theresa Goh, and David Palumbo, Vice-Chair of the Executive Board at You Can Play Project and Partner at Baker McKenzie in Canada. The curated panel helped provide perspectives from professional athletes (trans and disabled), professionals who also work on NGOs, and the arts and activism. Together, they embodied experiences of government oppression, gender and the right to play sports, and safety when travelling with a disability. They also articulated how inclusion in sports for LGBTQ coaches, athletes and fans have implications for public sentiment and greater inclusion for all.
Hong Kong is a model city for global finance, not grassroots activism. The city’s population is 92 per cent Han Chinese, according to the 2016 government by-census, but it is nonetheless host to regional offices and a global flow of talent. Yet, discrimination continues to be pervasive, whether to its Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers, South Asian locals, or LGBTQ individuals. But organizations and events can take initiative to be more inclusive, and many in Hong Kong are beginning to.
At the Miles of Love forum, Filipino and Indonesian presenters shared the stage with participants from American Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Palestine, Russia, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States. The event curation embodied the diversity and inclusion that is now a trending topic within corporations that are seeking to attract and retain talent.
The story cannot stop at what Pussy Riot sees in Hong Kong. There is something at this grassroots event in Hong Kong that international athletes, business people, artists, filmmakers, NGOs and activists saw worth coming for. Behind the excitement, these international visitors have generated is a question for the people in this city to ask, “What does Hong Kong see in itself?”