"Land is at a premium, and cemetery plot prices are skyrocketing." Last week, as we burned joss for Qingming ("Chinese Memorial Day"), my Kai Ma made a passing remark about Hong Kong's land shortage. I was reminded of when we found that the hillside shantytown where my father had grown up had completely vanished. In its stead, on the newly razed land, now stand towers of luxury condominiums (which no doubt contribute to the "wall effect").
Then, this article popped up in my feed: "Hong Kong LGBTQ groups ‘reluctantly’ support gov’t columbaria bill." In Hong Kong, only relatives, “authorised persons,” and interment right holders can claim the ashes of a deceased individual. However, last December, over thirty LGBT organizations requested that a new bill include "related persons" – defined as those who were "living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years." The government agreed, but relatives will still be given priority over “related persons.” One politician subsequently suggested that the definition of "relatives" be expanded to include same-sex partners in a marriage, civil partnership, or civil union (from overseas jurisdictions, of course). The government declined, citing that such changes would “arouse serious controversy in society" and that the bill was not an appropriate "forum" through which to address the issue.
"Homoerotic Sino-USSR Propaganda." Shanghaiist. Accessed April 17, 2017. http://shanghaiist.com/2012/03/05/
As we seek to envision the future of sexual identity politics in Hong Kong and abroad, we must evaluate the interplay of space, "modernity," economics and the law in shaping our perspectives. Hong Kong's urban landscapes continue to transform in parallel with its sociopolitical topography. We must (re)conceptualize space as neither purely physical nor impermeable. At this potent political moment – fraught with both expectancy and uncertainty – we exist not just in a state of liminal temporality but liminal acculturation.
First, note that cohabitation is presently being utilized to denote "non-traditional" sexual intimacy and/or partnership. Examining the history of familial living arrangements in the last century, we know that immigration patterns and class dynamics conjured circumstances wherein multiple families shared single tenement rooms. In "A Fading Tongzhi Heterotopia," Travis SK Kong explores how gay men (now all over sixty years of age) negotiated their home lives, bearing in mind that "from 1842 to 1990 (the year when homosexuality was decriminalized), there was no legal homosexual space in Hong Kong" (900). In doing so, he blurs the lines between the parallel binaries of publicity/privacy, heterosexuality/homosexuality. Indeed, the interconnectedness of the four concepts may defy conventional expectation. The heterosexual family unit's private domain versus cruising at public toilets; or the public performance of a heterosexual lifestyle versus the private same-sex relationships one keeps hidden?
Following the 1980 MacLennan Incicent, "deviant sexual conduct" was no longer just a "legal issue," but an identity (905). The proliferation of "sites exclusively for tongzhi consumption" (e.g., bars, bathhouses, boutiques, and bookshops) post-1991 helped replace "the citizen-pervert" with "the good consumer citizen," while solidifying a "positive cultural sense of belonging for tongzhi" (908). Today, an online community of tongzhi may exercise their hybrid knowledge of Western "gay and lesbian studies [and] queer theories [...] and their Chinese cultural and literary heritage" (303) – as noted by Terri He in "Online Tongzhi?." The contrast between tongzhi experiences just over half a century ago and those today are stark, delineated not just by mediums of contact or methods of anonymity but access to information and means of self-definition. Both the public and private spaces have been intruded upon by capitalism and technology, and transformed from the inside out. As such, we are left to envision how this process interconnects with transnational flows of neocolonialist interests and glocalization.