I feel guilty: same-sex partner tells of angst battling Hong Kong government to be recognised as dependant

Before QT and her same-sex partner ventured to Hong Kong to make their home, they did what many would do these days when they encounter something unfamiliar - they browsed the -almighty internet.

SS, QT's partner, got a job offer in Hong Kong, so they wanted to find out if it would be possible for them to move out here together from Britain.

And the search result? "It only says spouse," QT recalled of the vague term, adding that there was no information on whether a visa would be granted to the dependant of a same-sex partner.

Hong Kong is an international city, so she thought, and like some of our metropolitan counterparts, granting visas to same-sex couples should not be a big deal.

But the next thing she and her partner knew, they found themselves locked in a lengthy battle, trying to deal with her repeatedly rejected applications for a dependant visa since they moved to the city in 2011.

It turned out the visa which the Immigration Department would generally grant to heterosexual couples would not be given to those in a homosexual relationship.

The pair took the matter to court to challenge the Immigration Department's action after it declined to allow further appeals. But the Court of First Instance ruled against her on March 11. She is now preparing an appeal to a higher court.

In an exclusive interview, she told the South China Morning Post of her despair and how the lengthy fight had taken a toll on her and her partner.

"At the moment, I feel guilty," she told the Post, citing how the situation had been affecting them on many levels.

First and foremost, she said, it had placed a financial burden on her partner. "I can't work ... I can't earn money. I can't be independent. It's a complete burden on my partner," she said.

QT chose to remain anonymous to protect her family and partner, so little was known about her.

But she told the Post that before she moved to Hong Kong, she was a career woman at the management level, dealing with high-profile clients.

None of those carried over, however, as she has been on a tourist visa since she moved to the city.

Not only is she banned from work, she also has to leave the city every six months. A bank account or an identity card are also out of the question.

The flight tickets needed for QT to leave at least once a year do not come cheap. This is exacerbated by her need to support her parents back home financially, a burden falling on her partner.

"I am completely reliant on her so I have lost the basic human right to be independent," she said.

"And if I am a burden on her ... I am going to be upset. We are supposed to be supporting each other. It's not supposed to be like a one-way street."

QT said this had also taken a toll on her self-esteem, while the stress had made her existing health issues worse.

Also making her and her partner increasingly anxious was the stepped-up questioning by immigration officers the last two times QT re-entered Hong Kong. "Why are you here?'" she recalled being asked. "I want to be with my partner. Is that such a big deal?"

The absurdity was underlined around the same time when SS's colleague, who was in a heterosexual marriage, filed the same applications. QT and SS have been together for 12 years and entered into a civil union partnership in 2011, while the other couple had only been together for two to three years. Yet, it was the couple which was given the visa after going through less complicated procedures than QT and SS.

The heterosexual couple was asked to provide only a wedding certificate, but QT and SS had to detail every bit of their relationship in a chronological order, QT said.

She said it was hard for her and her partner not to talk about the worst-case scenario, which is to leave. The couple, who like Asia, might move to other Asian countries such as Vietnam, where views towards same-sex relationships are more liberal.

But QT said this meant Hong Kong could lose its edge in attracting talented people as the policy made it difficult for multinational firms, many of which hire homosexual employees, to move their staff to Asia's financial hub.

Asked if the government's policy had failed to catch up with the city's changing attitude, QT cited the Equal Opportunities Commission's latest survey which showed support for legislation to protect sexual minorities in the city was growing. "[The people] are ready," she said.

Critics might argue that the city is not responsible for changing its rules to suit those coming from overseas, but Michael Vidler, QT's solicitor, disagreed.

He said if QT won, it would not only be beneficial to expatriates, but also locals. He said he had been handling six similar cases, one of which involves a Hongkonger whose same-sex partner faces the same barrier as QT.

Meanwhile, the fight for QT and her partner, albeit tiring, goes on. "I just want to have the basic human right to be with the one I love. I just want to be treated as a human being really," she said.

Source: SCMp

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