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Hong Kong Transport Authorities Ban, Then Unban Ad Showing Gay Couple

The Cathay Pacific ad depicts two well-dressed gentlemen strolling hand-in-hand down the beach accompanied by the phrase "move beyond labels" as part of a larger inclusivity campaign.

Unnamed sources at Hong Kong's Airport Authority and the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation revealed to the South China Morning Post that the LGBTQ ad was not allowed at the airport or any train stations. Less than 24 hours after the ban had been reported on, both organizations changed their stances on the advert in response to public pressure.

The French advertising company, JCDecaux, which had been subcontracted to select and managed the advertisements in MTR stations, originally explained the refusal to feature the ad by citing two clauses in the contract: one prohibiting any content deemed to “offend the generally accepted standards of public decency or the social or cultural standards of the society” and another that doesn't allow for material that cause “discomfort, fear, distress, embarrassment or distaste to the public.”

Internet backlash came swiftly when the bans became known. LGBTQ groups called for same-sex couples to take photos holding hands at the airport and MTR stations with the hashtag #movebeyonddiscrimination. 

The two companies quickly launched into damage control with MTR Corp chairman, Fred Ma Si-hang, allegedly calling Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker to express the seriousness with which they strive for diversity. 

JCDecaux released a statement on behalf of the MTR: “We have been in contact with the relevant advertising agency and have just confirmed to the agency that the advertisement in question can be displayed at MTR stations.” The Airport Authority issued a similar comment, claiming that the ad in question did not, in fact, break any established guidelines. It's unclear if the ads will soon appear at any of the transportation hubs. 

Both the MTR and Airport Authority are government or partially government controlled. Same-sex marriage and civil unions are not legal in Hong Kong and homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1991.

[Photo via South China Morning Post]


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