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Hong Kong LGBTQ activists upset at revised ID card gender rules

By Jessie Pang and Dorothy Kam

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong will allow transgender people who have not completed full sex reassignment surgery to change gender on their ID cards, the government said on Wednesday, but activists are upset by strict new surgical and hormonal requirements.

The Court of Final Appeal last February unanimously sided with appeals launched by transgender activists that barring transgender people from changing their gender on their mandatory ID cards unless they undergo full sex reassignment surgery violates their rights.

The court ruling for activist Henry Tse and another appellant identified as Q was hailed as a victory for transgender rights in the Chinese-ruled city. Wednesday's announcement comes two weeks after Tse launched a legal challenge over the delay in allowing him to change his gender on his ID card.

Citing the February 2023 judgment, the government said in a statement that if people had not completed the full sex reassignment surgery but "satisfied the revised criteria and requirements, they may apply for a change of sex entry on their Hong Kong identity cards".

The revised requirements include the removal of breasts for transgender men, and removal of penis and testes for transgender women, which some activists say are too extreme. They must also undergo continuous hormonal treatment for at least two years before the gender change ID application is made.

Tse's legal representative, Wong Hiu Chong, said in a statement that they welcomed the revised policy but they are "concerned about the heavy emphasis on undergoing blood tests and submission of blood reports on hormone levels".

"We do not see the justifications, but the contravention of individuals’ rights, forcing them to take unnecessary medical tests and their right to privacy," Wong said.

Zephyrus Tsang, a director at Quarks, an organisation for transgender youth, said the surgical requirements were "a violation of the rights of physical integrity" of transgender individuals.

Christine Chu, a legal and operation manager at Quarks and a transgender woman, said that the new requirements were particularly unfair for transgender woman, as asking them to remove genitalia was "a forced sterilisation".

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Transgender individuals in Chinese society are still widely stigmatised, with crackdowns in recent years on LGBTQ activism.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Dorothy Kam in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing; Editing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie)