Gay Widower in Hong Kong Victorious in Securing Rights

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday October 7, 2021

The surviving male partner of a gay man who died earlier this year has secured a "clarification" from the government in Hong Kong that the same "after-death" rights will be available to all spouses regardless of gender, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Following that clarification, the widower, Henry Li, "dropped a legal challenge against the government," which had initially denied Li the right to "identify the remains of his late husband Edgar Ng as the 'official identifier' without authorization from Ng's mother."

"He was also unable to scatter Ng's ashes at sea as his surviving spouse," the report added. "Ng, who suffered from chronic depression, took his own life last December."

Ng himself had pressed for equality before the law for LGBTQ+ people in Hong Kong, the article noted, filing two requests for judicial review of his own — one related equality in subsidized housing for same-sex couples, and the other having to do with inheritance laws in cases where no will has been left behind by the deceased.

"The High Court handed down judgements in favor of Ng and Li in both cases," the Free Press recalled. "The government is currently appealing against them. Li took over the cases as applicant after Ng's passing."

After Li filed for a judicial review relating to his rights as Ng's surviving spouse, "the Department of Justice clarified its position and regulations," the report went on to add, with the government saying that it "has no differentiating policy in its treatment for same-sex or heterosexual spouses."

"High Court Justice Anderson Chow heard the government's clarified position" on Sept. 6, the article reported.

Li dropped the judicial review request. The law firm representing him, Daly & Associates, issued a statement in which it said that the government has "now acknowledged their mistake, clarified their position and confirmed that same-sex widows and widowers would be treated equally."

However, the Hong Kong Free Press noted, the firm's statement also took note of some rights that same-sex surviving spouses will not be accorded that opposite-sex surviving spouses are granted.

"They include: the right to object or consent to organ donation for education or research, their right to be buried together, priority when applying for a cremation permit in cases of natural death, priority when dealing with ashes released from columbaria, and whether they would have priority to be granted permission for burial, exhuming or removing their late spouse's body," the statement detailed.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.