Hong Kong’s public libraries ‘U-turn’ on anti-LGBT+ kids’ books ban after uproar

The Hong Kong government has reportedly reversed its decision to remove ten LGBT+ children’s books from its 82 public libraries.

Hong Kong Public Libraries  (HKPL) – run by the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department – had been  accused of “appeasing hate groups” after it gave way to pressure and took the ten books off the shelves in its libraries in June.

The books included Molly’s Family, Introducing Teddy, Daddy and Papa and Me, Mommy, Mama and Me, The Family Book, The Boy in the Dress and Milly, Molly and Different Dads. 

The decision by the Home Affairs Bureau to remove the books came after anti-gay focus group Sexual Orientation Ordinance Concern Group made a complaint about the publications promoting homosexuality.

“Over the past few months, we have conveyed to Home Affairs Bureau, through correspondence and public action, pour concern about the possession of homosexual and cross-gender children’s books in public libraries,” the anti-gay group wrote on Facebook.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Home Affairs had defended the decision, saying that although the books have been removed from public display, they would be available upon request.

“The decision was made to ensure young people are ‘properly guided when consuming these reading materials,'” said the Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah in a quoted response email to the Concern Group,” wrote Hong Kong’s Young Post.

The move resulted in uproar among LGBT+ rights campaigners.

One of the books banned from the library

MeMommy, Mama and Me was taken off the shelves. (Lesléa Newman/Carol Thompson)

Human Rights Watch slammed the decision, saying it “deprive[d] people of their right to access information that could be important to their development, health, and safety.”

Brian Leung from the LGBT rights group the Big Love Alliance  told the Hong Kong Standard that the move was totally “unacceptable and appalling.”

“They emphasised that they moved the books to the closed stacks and the decision is based on concerns expressed by various readers. But we all know so well that it’s not expressed by just regular readers of the library, it’s by a very notorious Hong Kong anti-gay hate group,” he said.

And a local activist, Lee Tak-hung, reportedly applied for a judicial review of the decision, which he believed to be illegal.

David Walliams' book The Boy In The Dress was adapted by the BBC (BBC)

David Walliams’ book The Boy In The Dress was adapted by the BBC (BBC)

Now, it appears that the Hong Kong government has gone back on its decision to remove the books, following the criticism from LGBT+ rights groups, reports Young Post. 

According to an email seen by Young Post, HKPL is quoted as saying: “In the light of public views, the HKPL has recently reviewed the 10 children books … The HKPL considers that the books are suitable to remain in the library collection for public reading. Members of the public may approach the library staff for viewing and borrowing the books. The LCSD notes that the community has diverse opinions on the handling of the 10 books.”

Daddy, Papa and Me is one of the books that has been removed from shelves

Daddy, Papa and Me is one of the books that was removed from shelves. (Lesléa Newman/Carol Thompson)

“The Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) acquires library materials in developing a balanced and diversified library collection to meet the community’s needs for information and research, and to support continuing education and fruitful use of leisure time.  The HKPL is committed to safeguarding the principle of free access to information and does not seek to promote any specific beliefs or points of views through its collection.”