An advert showing two men holding hands on a beach has been banned from Hong Kong’s public transport system and city airport.
The autonomous territory’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and Airport Authority have refused permission for the Cathay Pacific poster campaign showing a same-sex couple, according to the South China Morning Post.
Unnamed sources from both transport authorities told the newspaper the ad – featuring the smiling couple alongside the slogan “move beyond labels” – had been rejected because of the “LGBT content”.
The advert was only one of a series created as part of the airline’s rebrand and the company’s other posters have been on display in MTR stations.
It has not commented on the ban directly, but a spokesperson said: “We embrace diversity and inclusion. We are very diverse and our customers are too.”
A spokesperson for MTR said its advertising bookings were sub-contracted to the French company JCDecaux, which was given guidelines on the suitability of ad campaigns in its contract.
JCDecaux explained that two clauses in its contract governed its decisions to refuse certain ads.
One prohibits any content deemed to be “offend the generally accepted standards of public decency or the social or cultural standards of the society”.
The other rejects content which causes “discomfort, fear, distress, embarrassment or distaste to the public”.
“The [same-sex couple] advert from Cathay Pacific came with a series of options,” a JCDecaux spokesperson told the South China Morning Post. “Therefore alternative visuals were used in this campaign.”
Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen described the ban as a “step back” on Twitter and said he was not satisfied by the authorities’ explanations.
“Which law or regulation does this advert fail to comply to? Is there an internal guideline from either the MTR or Airport Authority that does not allow LGBT-friendly ads? How can they have such a ridiculous and arbitrary censorship system in place? The public needs to know how this censorship comes to be.”
Leading figures in the territory’s LGBT community called on the Hong Kong government to follow Taiwan after it became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage last week.
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