MTR's about-turn on gay ad

Top News | Charlotte Luo and Cindy Wan 22 May 2019

A ban on a Cathay Pacific advert showing two men hand in hand at the airport and in MTR stations has been reversed following a public outcry.

The rail operator and Airport Authority both decided to give the green light to the ad yesterday.

The poster was part of Cathay Pacific Airways' new branding campaign "Move Beyond." The posters can be seen in Cathay Pacific City. Featuring two men holding hands and walking on the beach, the poster comes with the slogan "Move Beyond Labels."

The advert is meant to highlight the airline's attitude to diversity and inclusion.

In response to an inquiry by The Standard yesterday, the Airport Authority said it "has informed its agency for handling advertisement applications that the AA deems the visual not in infringement of the AA's established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal."

MTR Corp has requested its French advertising handler, JCDecaux, to consider its position on equal opportunity and diversity by allowing the same-sex advertisement to be displayed at MTR stations.

On its Facebook page, the MTRC said it is "unequivocally committed to equal opportunities in all aspects of its business and supports diversity."

The rail operator said it does not tolerate any form of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, family status or any other factor.

"The corporation understands the public's concern on the matter. We have immediately communicated with the advertising sales agency and have requested the agency to fully consider the corporation's commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when it considers advertisements in the future," the MTRC wrote.

It made clear that advertising bookings for the MTR network have been contracted out to advertising sales agencies, which handle applications by advertisers in accordance with their guidelines.

JCDecaux told The Standard that it had informed Cathay Pacific's advertising agency that "the design can be posted at MTR stations." It is now awaiting Cathay Pacific's decision.

On its Facebook post yesterday, Cathay Pacific uploaded a picture of its staff posing in front of the ad. The airline thanked people's support and reiterated its commitment to diversity.

The reversals came after public pressure following media reports that both MTR Corp and Hong Kong International Airport had banned the poster.

The Airport Authority and the rail operator both rejected the advert initially.

Following the media report, the city's LGBT+ community and its supporters were angered. The advocacy group Big Love Alliance put out a call on social media for same-sex couples to share photos of themselves holding hands.

Gigi Chao, whose real-estate tycoon father Cecil Chao offered HK$1 billion to any man who could turn Gigi straight, posted a photo of herself with another woman at Hong Kong Station. "#MoveBeyondDiscrimination to an inclusive and thriving Hong Kong. Love you my dearest Summer Luk," she wrote, attached to a selfie with her partner.

Lesbian activist Benita Chick posted a photo of herself holding hands with a woman in an MTR station, calling people to "Join the movement."

A spokesman of LGBT rights group Rainbow Action, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, said he does not understand why the MTRC would ban the advertisement in the first place, as the company has allowed advertisements about LGBT protests in its stations since 2014.

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