By Jessie Pang and Dorothy Kam
(Reuters) - The Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) kicked off on Saturday, its first time in Asia, despite opposition from anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and human rights activists.
The opening ceremony began with a march-in by the GGHK, Federation of Gay Games, and delegations from around the world, followed by performances including the Hong Kong lion dance.
"The vision of the Gay Games has always been to create a sports, arts, and culture festival that celebrates participation, inclusion, and personal best," said Lisa Lam, co-chair of GGHK.
Lam said GGHK was proud to introduce an all-genders category in multi-sports for the first time, so that people of all genders can compete together.
Over 2,300 participants from 45 countries are expected to take part in sporting and cultural events, including, dragon boat racing and mahjong.
The Mexican city of Guadalajara is co-hosting the event.
Hong Kong has no law against discrimination based on sexual orientation and does not recognise same-sex marriage.
A ruling by its top court in September set a two-year deadline for the government to establish a legal framework to recognise same-sex unions.
The government did not send officials to the opening ceremony, warning the organisers in August that the Games must be conducted in a “lawful, safe and orderly manner”.
Beijing imposed the National Security Law (NSL) on the city in 2020 after months of anti-government protests. The law punishes subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with terms of up to life in prison.
Regina Ip, convener of the city’s top decision-making body the Executive Council, was the only pro-establishment figure at the opening ceremony, despite calls from anti-LGBTQ lawmakers for her to resign.
"The holding of the Gay Games in Hong Kong is strong testimony to the diversity, inclusion, and unity of our city," Ip said in her welcoming speech.
"Equal opportunity and non-discrimination are highly treasured by our government and our people."
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho on Thursday sent a letter to the city's leader John Lee, saying that the agenda of the gay games is to promote same-sex marriage, accusing it of violating the NSL.
Five Hong Kong human rights activists also called for the Games to be cancelled in June, saying organisers "have aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong".
Taiwan is not sending athletes to Hong Kong but to Guadalajara, citing security concerns over the NSL.
Opposition did not dampen the excitement, spectators chanted, cheered and waved before the opening ceremony.
“This is a good idea because especially China is not very fond of the gays. So this is to become visible in China as queer people,” said Gerrit Schulz, 80, a participant from Berlin.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Dorothy Kam; Editing by Giles Elgood)