Same-sex couples in Hong Kong will now be allowed to own subsidised housing together after a landmark High Court ruling which saw a gay widower take on the government.
Henry Li was not able to inherit the government-subsidised flat his late husband Edgar Ng bought in 2018 after they wed in the UK because the city’s housing policies deny same-sex partners joint occupancy and ownership rights.
The court said that the refusal to acknowledge married same-sex couples in Hong Kong’s subsidised housing policies “constitute[s] unlawful discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation”.
Justice Anderson Chow, who presided over the case, said that denying joint occupancy and ownership rights to same-sex couples was in violation of Hong Kong’s constitution and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.
In 2019, Ng had brought two judicial review proceedings against Hong Kong’s government, one seeking equal rights for same-sex couples in subsidised housing. The other review challenged inheritance and intestacy laws, as he was concerned his husband would not inherit his property if he died without a will.
The High Court ruled in Ng’s favour in September last year to grant he and Li equal ownership of their home. However, the government attempted to appeal against the decision.
Ng died by suicide in December 2020, and the hearings for his two judicial reviews began in April this year.
He added: “Edgar’s mother is now demanding that I be excluded from the scattering of Edgar’s ashes and that I move out from our matrimonial home.”
His mother later demanded Li return all of Ng’s possessions and documents to her.
Li explained: “When your spouse dies, you expect dignity for your spouse and yourself.
“This kind of discrimination is not acceptable in our society.”