Cathay Pacific’s Gay Advert Causes Controversy In Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific is in hot water after an advert featuring what many assume to be a same-sex couple got banned in Hong Kong, as reported by the South China Morning Post. You can see the advert for yourself here:

Cathay Pacific
The advert in question. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Despite gay marriage being slowly accepted around the world (and unfortunately in other places the concept being pushed back to the dark ages), it is a rather bold step for an international airline to have an opinion on the subject.

What are the details?

Cathay Pacific recently rebranded its marketing message, including the reveal of a new slogan “Move Beyond”. They launched a new video to go along with this marketing.

As part of the campaign, Cathay Pacific ran a series of images embracing different boundaries, with the slogan “move beyond”. But, out of all the images that were displayed around the city and throughout the metro network (including the airport rail link), only the one featuring the male couple was rejected.

Now, this is where the story starts to get a little drama fueled. Apparently, Hong Kong Airport corporation and MTR (Hong Kong’s metro company, a private organization) have denied that they ‘banned’ the particular advert. They have said that the advertising agencies representing the campaign pulled the specific content from them.

“Clients should follow the contract terms and conditions and agency’s guidelines, to ensure the advertisements comply with the laws of Hong Kong as well as codes of practice in the advertising industry.” – MTR

In rebuttal, JCDecaux has categorically denied that they pulled the advert themselves, and has said that the MTR and Airport both rejected the adverts, stating the photo breached their advertising contracts.

“[adverts which are] immoral; or which offend the generally accepted standards of public decency or the social or cultural standards of the society, which … “in any way cause[ed] discomfort, fear, distress, embarrassment or distaste to the public” would be rejected.” – JCDecaux

Apparently, JCDecaux went on to run a similar advert but without the clear gay marriage connotation.

Cathay
Cathay Pacific, through its partners, would go on to run a different advert in its place. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Fellow aviation site, Onemileatatime, contacted the MTR to follow up on this issue and was given this lukewarm response:

“We note recent public concern over the advertising campaign of an airline. MTR Corporation is unequivocally committed to equal opportunities in all aspects of its business and supports diversity. It does not tolerate any form of discrimination of the grounds of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, family status or any other factor. We have immediately communicated with the advertising sales agency and have requested the agency to fully consider the Corporation’s commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when it considers advertisements in the future.”

What does Cathay Pacific think?

According to SCMP, Cathay Pacific has defended the advert and their inclusion policies.

“We embrace diversity and inclusion. We are very diverse and our customers are too,” said the Cathay Statement, with reference to an additional policy statement earlier this year”The inclusion bit is really important. No matter who you are, when you come to work at Cathay Pacific … we want you to be who you are and feel really comfortable and be a productive part of the team and that’s what we strive for.”

Gay marriage is still banned in Hong Kong, although its acceptance is blossoming in the region, with neighbor Taiwan making gay marriage legal earlier this month.

Other airlines in the region have also come out with a pro-gay marriage stance in recent years, including Virgin Atlantic and Qantas, who both fly to Hong Kong.

What do you think? Should the ad run in all its glory in Hong Kong?

1 comment
  1. Hmmmm. Very interesting.

    If this advertisement featuring a same-sex male couple is a “problem” or a “controversial matter”, I wonder how the airline (Cathay Pacific), its advertising agency, the airport authority, the city’s public transit, the many well-known international corporations who supported the city’s winning bid, and others are going to deal with the upcoming 2022 Gay Games, which are taking place for the first time in Asia in November, 2022?

    Per the official web site:

    “Founded in San Francisco in 1982, the Gay Games have become the world’s largest sporting and cultural event led by LGBT athletes, artists, and musicians. The event was most recently hosted in 2014 in Cleveland (USA) and involved over 8,800 individuals from 60 countries competing in 37 sports disciplines. The Gay Games pumped half a billion Hong Kong dollars into the local economy. The festival covers 3 themes: Sports, Arts & Culture and Academic Conference. The next Gay Games will be held in Paris in 2018 and anticipates 15,000 participants.“

    Cathay Pacific supported the city’s bid for the 2022 Gay Games, which celebrates the 40th year since the event was founded in San Francisco in 1982.

    So, it will be interesting to see how things change over the next 41 or so months for Cathay Pacific, the airport authority in Hong Kong, and local government officials in a city which again is experiencing political tension between China’s leaders in Beijing, which some allege are seeking to expand its influence in Hong Kong, and those whom are seeking to limit the alleged encroachment in recent years of the “one country, two systems” agreement that governs the reunification agreement between China and the United Kingdom in 1997 as for sure, this event is going to draw people from around the world, and will also likely be covered widely given its historic significance as the 2022 Gay Games will be the first time the event, which occurs every four years, is taking place in Asia.

    Until now, the Gay Games have been held in North America (Canada & USA), Europe, and Australia.

    In addition to supporting the city’s bid to host the 2022 Gay Games, a crew of Cathay Pacific’s LGBTQ pilots flew the plane that the representatives who sponsored Hong Kong’s bid to host the games took back from Paris after the city was announced as the winner in 2017, according to the official gaygameshk2022 web site.

    A great many of the best-known corporations in banking, insurance, advertising, tourism and more are supporters of this history making event.

    So, perhaps, it’s time for the airport authority as well to ensure visitors from around the world feel welcome in Hong Kong, too, from the moment we step off an airplane in Hong Kong until the very last moment before we step aboard our flights back home – from now and long after the 2022 Gay Games have concluded!

    Hong Kong is a beautiful and magnificent world class city.

    Everyone should feel safe, secure and welcomed there, too.

    It’s the 21st century… it’s time to move beyond hate and discrimination towards anyone because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

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