The late Edgar Ng and Henry Li for the 2021 Prism Award
This year, the Prism Award honours the tireless commitment of Henry Li and his husband, the late Edgar Ng, in their struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality in Hong Kong.
When Edgar Ng and Henry Li married each other in England in 2017, they did not know that their private ceremony would become a matter of public debate – and would end up changing the legal fabric of Hong Kong.
Under Hong Kong law, same-sex marriages do not enjoy the same rights as heterosexual ones. Edgar and Henry brought 2 judicial reviews – and Henry has brought a third – to fight that inequality.
The first judicial review was submitted when Edgar discovered that the home he had bought could not be left to Henry if he died without a will – in effect, Henry was not recognised as his “spouse” under the city’s inheritance laws. In September 2020, the Hong Kong High Court ruled in favour of Edgar, and held that same-sex marriages should enjoy equal rights under local law on intestacy and financial provision for dependents.
The second revolved around the ‘Home Ownership Scheme’ which allows married heterosexual couples – but not same-sex ones – to jointly own and live together in public housing units. When Edgar and Henry lived in public housing, they were the targets of anonymous complaints and lived in constant fear of eviction, solely because the government scheme did not recognise their marriage. In June 2021, the Hong Kong High Court ruled that it was unlawful and unconstitutional for the city to deny lawfully married same-sex couples under the ‘Home Ownership Scheme’. They also heard evidence of the devastating psychological damage suffered by the couple because of discrimination, and ruled further that the relevant Housing Authority operates on LGBTQIA+ individuals with such “oppressive unfairness” that it cannot be regarded as a proportionate means of achieving the Authority’s policy aims.
Sadly, Edgar did not live to see the second ruling, as he passed away in December 2020. His husband, Henry, continues his legacy of fighting for equality by launching a third judicial review. After Edgar’s passing, Henry was denied the right to organise his husband’s affairs as his spouse. Instead, the government continues to refuse to recognise their marriage, heaping indignity upon disrespect even as Henry grieves his husband. In his third bid, Henry argues that the city’s policies are “blatantly discriminatory” on the basis of sexual orientation and a violation of the equality provisions of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and Bill of Rights.
The HKLGFF unanimously celebrates Edgar and Henry’s commitment and passion in their fight for equality and the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Hong Kong. Their victories in court are victories for all of us in our struggle for recognition and acceptance. Their courage in calling out discrimination is truly inspirational, and it is heartbreaking that they were forced to become activists when all they wanted was to live their lives together without fear.
We wholeheartedly give the 2021 Prism Award to the late Edgar Ng, whose bravery in taking a stand is an inspiration to us all, and to Henry Li, who continues their fight for a more equal future.