Hong Kong's top court on Wednesday ruled in favour of a British lesbian on a dependent visa case in a landmark decision against the government that will have wide-ranging implications on how expatriate same-sex couples are treated in the city.
The Court of Final Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal by the Director of Immigration against a lower court’s ruling, saying the director was wrong to deny the woman, known as QT in court, a dependent visa as her civil partnership is not recognised in Hong Kong.
QT was refused a dependent visa after her partner took up a job in Hong Kong in 2011. The women entered into a civil partnership in Britain that same year.
The court said it agreed with the Court of Appeal that there’s no rational connection between the policy of only granting dependent visas to spouses in a monogamous marriage consisting of one male and one female, and the administration's aim of attracting foreign talent and maintaining strict immigration control.
In response, a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said the government respects the decision of the court. She said officials are studying the judgement carefully and shall seek legal advice if necessary before deciding the way forward.
The case had generated great attention as a string of multinational financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley, had unsuccessfully sought to join the legal challenge against the government’s policy on LGBT rights.
In a joint statement, also issued by 16 law firms in the city, the banks said the ruling was a positive outcome, not only for QT but also for the people and business community in Hong Kong.
"This ruling strengthens Hong Kong’s ability to attract global talent and its competitiveness as Asia's preeminent global center for commerce. This ruling paves the way for greater LGBT+ equality in Hong Kong," said the statement.
QT had initially lost a judicial review over the visa arrangements in March 2016 when the case was heard at the Court of First Instance. But she went on to win an appeal in September last year, before the government challenged that ruling.
Following the verdict, Amnesty International issued a statement urging the government to "swiftly introduce comprehensive legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status".
Last updated: 2018-07-04 HKT 15:05
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