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September 3, 2019 at 1:50 pm PDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Hong Kong turmoil raises questions about 2022 Gay Games

Recent unrest in Hong Kong has some wondering about viability of the Gay Games there in 2022. (Photo by Studio Incendo via Flickr)

The escalating violent street clashes between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement protesters and local authorities taking orders from China that have taken place each week since June have raised questions about whether Hong Kong can remain a viable host city for the 2022 Gay Games.
In 2017, the Federation of Gay Games, which organizes the quadrennial international LGBT sports event that attracts as many as 15,000 athletes and thousands more spectators, selected Hong Kong as the host city for the 2022 Gay Games.

The decision by the FGG to select Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico came after all three cities – which the FGG named as finalists in its competition to select a host city – presented detailed proposals on why they believed they were best suited to host the 2022 LGBT mega sports event.

In keeping with the Gay Games tradition, the three cities’ proposals included cultural events such as LGBT rights related gatherings to accompany the athletic events associated with the Games.
Although the Gay Games in Hong Kong are scheduled to take place in November 2022, more than three years from now, international observers of Hong Kong and China have said it is hard to predict how things may be in Hong Kong at that time.

Among other things, China has hinted that it will send in military forces to crush the pro-democracy street protests that have halted much of Hong Kong’s downtown business and transportation system during the weekend protests despite local police crackdowns. Hundreds of thousands have taken part in the protests.

A full China takeover of Hong Kong could raise questions about whether an LGBT event like the Gay Games would be welcome, some observers have said.

Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the FGG, told the Washington Blade the FGG has asked Hong Kong organizers to address the situation in Hong Kong at the FGG’s annual General Assembly meeting scheduled to take place Oct.31-Nov. 2 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Since successfully winning the host city bid, the Gay Games 11 Hong Kong team has been making good progress on our plan to organize a successful and inclusive sports and cultural event in November 2022,” Fitzgerald said in a statement to the Blade. “Mindful of the importance of safety and security, the team has been working closely with the Hong Kong Government Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong Tourism Board, security companies, and other key stakeholders to develop, amongst others, a full security plan to ensure that we deliver a safe and inclusive event for all participants and spectators,” he said.

“Although the current events in Hong Kong are unsettling, we note that all major trade fairs, events and exhibitions scheduled for the second half of this year, are reported to be going ahead,” Fitzgerald said. “We are closely monitoring the evolving situation, and remain vigilant to ensure that the security plans for our event will be operational and effective for everyone 3+ years from now.”

The Hong Kong Gay Games organizers will also make a presentation to the FGG Board of Directors during the time of the General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, “which I am sure will be asking questions about the current situation,” Fitzgerald told the Blade.

China has been tolerant of LGBT-related organizations and events in recent years, observers have said, as long as those groups and events steer clear of politics and do not challenge the Communist Party government. The local, semi-autonomous government of Hong Kong has been generally supportive of the LGBT community, according to Hong Kong Gay Games organizers.

But experts have said China has taken an increasingly more assertive role in local Hong Kong affairs in recent years following the 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom in which the British turned over Hong Kong, a longtime British colony, to China. The agreement calls for China to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in a semi-autonomous way for 50 years after the 1997 agreement, but experts say there would be little that the U.K. or other countries, including the U.S., could do if China violates the agreement other than possibly imposing economic sanctions.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether D.C. would make another bid to host the Gay Games if it is determined that Hong Kong is no longer a viable host city. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Gay Games Bid Committee Chair Brent Minor were part of a 32-member D.C. contingent that traveled to Paris in October 2017 to advocate for the D.C. bid before the FGG.

“I really have no specific comment on the situation in Hong Kong,” Minor told the Blade in an email message on Tuesday. “Team D.C. plans to send our representative to the Annual Meeting in October and have them report back on any updates,” he said. “Team D.C. remains a strong supporter of the Gay Games movement and will support the efforts for Gay Games XI.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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