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In what is widely considered a severe blow to Hong Kong’s diversity and inclusion credentials, an advert by Cathay Pacific showing two gay men holding hands on a beach has been banned by two of the city’s most prominent companies.
Both the MTR and Airport Authority initially refused to run the advertisement.
It also makes something of a mockery of Hong Kong’s selection as host of the 2022 Gay Games – won on the city’s reputation as fair-minded and progressive.
The advert, which depicts two fully clothed men walking along the beach holding hands (pictured), was part of a rebranding campaign by Cathay Pacific Airways called “Move Beyond” to celebrate the airline’s attitude to diversity and inclusion.
“The inclusion bit is really important. No matter who you are, when you come to work at Cathay Pacific, we want you to be who you are and feel really comfortable and be a productive part of the team and that’s what we strive for,” Rupert Hogg, CEO for the airline, told the SCMP.
Both the MTR and Airport Authority were in damage control following their initial refusal to display the advert.
A spokesperson for MTR pointed out that advertisements for most of its train network was handled by JCDecaux, adding that “clients should follow the contract terms and conditions and agency’s guidelines, to ensure the advertisements comply with the laws of Hong Kong as well as codes of practice in the advertising industry”.
To be fair, both the MTR and Airport Authority lifted the ban once it went public but there was still a strong backlash.
Fired-up Hong Kong lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen expressed his disappointment on the original ban, saying: “Which law or regulation does this advert fail to comply to? Is there an internal guideline from either the MTR or Airport Authority that does not allow LGBT-friendly ads?”
“How can they have such a ridiculous and arbitrary censorship system in place? The public needs to know how this censorship comes to be.”
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