Organizers of the Gay Games, the quadrennial international LGBT sports event, announced in a statement released Monday night that they remain committed to holding the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong despite ongoing pro-democracy protest demonstrations that have rocked the city since June and have become increasingly violent.
The joint statement by the Federation of Gay Games and the Gay Games Hong Kong Management Team says the decision to reaffirm plans to hold the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong was made during the FGG’s Annual General Assembly meeting held in Guadalajara, Mexico Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
The statement says more than 130 delegates from 23 countries participated in the Guadalajara meeting. Among those in attendance was a representative of the D.C. LGBT sports group Team D.C.
“While we fully recognize the troubles in Hong Kong continue, the FGG Board and the attending members are leaving Mexico committed to the Gay Games in Hong Kong, which will be a spectacular sports and cultural event that will kick-start and foster LGBTQ+ connections among our communities in the city and region,” the statement says.
“This will be the largest LGBTQ+ sports and cultural event ever held in Asia,” the statement continues. “12,000 participants, 36 sports, and 20+ cultural events will take place over 9 days in November 2022.”
According to the statement, the Hong Kong Team presented two sessions to update FGG members on the current state of planning for Gay Games 11. “One presentation [was] on the current situation in Hong Kong and the other outlining the progress of the Hong Kong team for the 2022 Gay Games,” the statement says.
The FGG released its statement a few hours after CNN and other international news media outlets reported a man was set on fire Monday in Hong Kong shortly after police shot a protester during one of the most unsettling days of the five-month-long ongoing protests that sometimes involve violent actions by police and protesters.
The protests began in response to a proposed law by the Hong Kong government that would have allowed local authorities to extradite Hong Kong residents to China for prosecution for certain offenses. Local authorities dropped that proposal following a groundswell of opposition by pro-democracy advocates. But the protests have continued as Hong Kong authorities, with reported demands by China, have refused to adopt other democratic reforms demanded by pro-democracy forces.
Experts have said China has taken a more assertive role in local Hong Kong affairs in recent years following the 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom in which the British turned over Hong Kong, a longtime British colony, to China. The agreement allows Hong Kong to govern itself in a semi-autonomous way for 50 years after the agreement, but observers say there is little outsiders can do if China violates the agreement.
CNN reported that on Monday witnesses saw protesters hurl gasoline bombs, set fires, and put up barricades to disrupt public transportation in a number of locations, including subway stations. Police announced at a press conference on Monday night that protesters had blocked roads in 120 locations around the city, CNN reported.
“The nonstop protests have also sent retail and tourism numbers plunging, and the semi-autonomous city fell into recession in October,” CNN reports. “Travel is dropping as demonstrations escalate in violence, and there is increasing public hostility toward the city government and police force,” CNN reported on Monday.
The FGG statement released Monday night does not say whether FGG officials have developed a plan to relocate the Gay Games to another city if the current turmoil in Hong Kong doesn’t subside by 2022.
Shiv Paul, the FGG’s Officer of Communications, told the Washington Blade the FGG’s Hong Kong representatives stated in their presentations that a series of large-scale events planned for Hong Kong were continuing to be held or moving ahead for early next year. Among them, he said, is an international annual Rugby tournament called Rugby Sevens, which is expected to draw 40,000 people for the three-day event in April 2020.
Paul said the FGG Hong Kong representatives also stated they believe the highly unpopular chief executive of the Hong Kong government, Carrie Lam, would soon be replaced, a development that is expected to lessen tensions.
Les Johnson, an FGG board member from D.C. who also attended the Guadalajara meeting, said the Gay Games Hong Kong delegation also pointed out that a World Rowing Championship event took place in Hong Kong two weeks ago as scheduled.
“No one knows how the political situation will change, but it very well could improve where today’s troubles will be in the past,” Johnson told the Blade.
Grace Thompson, the Team D.C. representative who attended the FGG meeting in Guadalajara, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
In 2017, the FGG selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, which were among the three finalist cities competing to host the Games. About 15,000 athletes and thousands more spectators turned out for the Gay Games in Paris in 2018.
“Hong Kong is an opportunity to make a positive political statement by doing something that is fun and non-threatening and which can change peoples’ perspectives of what it means to be LGBTQ+“ said Gene Dermody, a participant in all 10 previous Gay Games, in the FGG statement.
“We believe in the power of unity that comes from diversity,” the statement says. “The Gay Games 11 tagline, Unity in Diversity, is an extremely relevant message not just for the Gay Games but for Hong Kong at this difficult time.”