The Consequences of Cardinal Tong’s Curriculum

Despite an inspiring and courageous protest by the Students graduating from the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, the biggest issue still flies under the radar.

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The Caritas Institute invited controversial Cardinal John Tong, who leads Hong Kong’s catholic population, to be the guest of honour at its recent graduation ceremony. The Cardinal published a letter in November urged people to choose their political representatives on the basis that they would reject the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO) which intends to provide help equal rights for the LGBT community. However, included in this letter was also criticism of LGBT sexual education workshops and this carries with it far reaching consequences for the lives of young people in Hong Kong. Following the Cardinals letter, an application for a sexual education workshop which has taken place on university campuses across Hong Kong was rejected at Caritas.

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His freedom of speech and opinion are important; I am not suggesting that he should not be allowed to publish his letter. However, when the effects of that letter are causing a truly vulnerable sector of society to be put at an even higher risk, by propagating that view you have to understand what the ramifications are. Even if your viewpoint is that homosexuality is wrong, can you really justify stopping people from being educated so as to help avoid life threatening diseases such as AIDS?

In 2013, Hong Kong posted record numbers of HIV infections, and the number of new infections reached 173 in the first quarter of this year alone. One of the most effective way of combating this is through a program of education about condoms, safe technique and communication between couples. The Cardinal must accept he represents a large number of people and carries much influence in certain circles. Therefore, whether or not he is a direct cause of workshops being cancelled he must accept some responsibility for damaging the ability of LGBT charities to save lives, as should Caritas. The implications here leave the Cardinal with a difficult question to answer. What is the difference between, explicitly stating that you are not concerned with the lives of people who do not follow your religion and simply not considering the consequences of your actions on the lives of such non-believers? If you do not consider the ramifications of your behaviour on someone, do you truly care about them?  The answer to that is far more telling than anything that he preaches from the pulpit.

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Furthermore encouraging voting against SODO is a vote against equality. SODO is not suggesting that homosexuals be put on a pedestal and be given special rights. Supporting equality isn’t even celebrating homosexuality, it is giving everyone the same basic rights and dignities. Currently there is little legal recognition of same-sex couples, there is no such thing as an LGBT hate crime and the only anti-discrimination laws that do exist merely apply to some government employment, goods or services. Such a medieval position leaves Hong Kong lagging behind the progressive world and is the other side of the coin to Hong Kong’s claims for liberalism and desire to protect their own, unique “Hong Kong identity”. A claim that someone should have less rights than yourself implies that you see yourself as being superior to them, whether or not you state it unequivocally. It is clear that firstly a belief system is not an objective criteria to judge that on and secondly without equality can we truly claim to live in a civilised society deserving of politically-progressive benefits? We should be promoting love and fairness, not invoking a religious argument to cut liberties down into a preferred shape.

Whether or not you agree with, or support homosexuality, it is utterly shameful to campaign against the sexual education of the LGBT community on the abhorrent health risks they are exposed too. For example, if you disagreed with abortion, you would still struggle to legitimately argue that someone should undergo the surgical procedure involved without being informed of the intrinsic dangers first. It is the definition of unjustifiable. Furthermore, we must not assume ourselves to deserve better protection of the law because of our beliefs; especially when there are far less safeguards for LGBT citizens in Hong Kong than there are for heterosexuals. Our religion does not make us superior to someone else, thus to put it succinctly, in the words of David Allan Coe: “All humans are created equal, it is only humans themselves who place themselves above equality”.

Callum Phillips
About Callum Phillips
Callum Phillips hails from a small town in Wales and is a reluctant Law student at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Leicester. His interests lie in Governance, Human Rights, Social Activism and generally questioning authority. While he is in Hong Kong he has become a very vocal campaigner and a staunch pro-democratic & morality-centred commentator. Tweet him @CallumPhillips8