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Hong Kong Legal Amendment May Lead to Change in Traditional Meaning of Family

Thaddeus M. Baklinski,

HONG KONG, January 16, 2009 ( – A proposed amendment to extend Hong Kong’s Domestic Violence Ordinance to include same-sex couples has elicited an uproar from groups that are concerned that the amendment could undermine the traditional concept of "family" and pave the way for same-sex “marriage.”

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong said in a January 5 press statement that extending the law to same-sex couples would "definitely lead to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the concepts of marriage and family, thereby undermining the foundation of our society."

In his statement, Cardinal Zen said that though the Catholic Church fully agrees that all people, irrespective of background, must be protected from any form of violence, "distorted concepts of marriage and family will bring about other serious consequences," and as a result he is determined to appeal to the government to make "the common good of our society the basis of its legislation on marriage and family."

The current domestic violence law, originally enacted in 1986, covers married couples and heterosexual cohabitants, with an amendment incorporated last year to include former spouses or cohabitants, as well as immediate and extended family members.

A spokesman for the Protestant-based Hong Kong Sex Culture Society, a group formed to work against commercialization of sex and the "easy-sex" culture, said in a UCA News report that the group supports the legislators who have stated their opposition to the proposed amendment.

Wong Sing-chi, a member of the Democratic Party who has made known his opposition to the bill, said that although he does not oppose giving protection to same-sex couples, he objects to using the word "family" in the Chinese version of the law. He maintained this would negatively impact the concept of family and its core value, and also might result in legal disputes, becoming the basis for the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

Michael Tse of the Catholic Church’s Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family (DPCMF) told UCA News that the amendment may result in demands for a judicial review on the legalization of homosexuality.

Tse said the local government seems to be "taking a hasty action in favor of homosexuality" in trying to extend the domestic violence law to cover same-sex couples.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour & Welfare, said in a press release that the government has no intention to change the definition of the family.

Cheung defined the proposed amendment as "only relevant to the policy area of domestic violence, and it enables same-sex cohabitants to apply under the ordinance to the court for an injunction order against molestation by their cohabiting partners."

"The administration does not recognise same-sex marriage, civil partnership or any same-sex relationship as a matter of legal status and policy stance," he said. "The proposed amendments have no relevance to the legal definition of marriage."

Father Lawrence Lee Len, chancellor of Hong Kong diocese, told UCA News that the diocese plans to form a Family Development Network, with the Protestant Church and other concerned organizations, to follow up on the issue.