It seems next year’s Gay Games in Hong Kong won’t be as inclusive as we would have liked it to be, as Taiwan will not be sending a delegation because of fears over the National Security Law (NSL).

The Gay Games are modeled after the Olympic Games and seek to create an inclusive space for all, obviously especially for LGBTQ+ individuals. These games have been held in multiple countries around the world. Throughout their ten iterations though, they have only been hosted by four countries: America, Canada, Australia, and France.

Next year, however, the games will be held in Hong Kong, which has come under the essentially complete control of Beijing through the NSL. This will be the Games 11th iteration. It has excited many in Hong Kong to receive such international attention, unfortunately for safety reasons, the Asian nation with the best record on gay rights will not be attending the Games.

Taiwan is the first and only country to have legalized same sex marriage in Asia. Though there has been some progress in other nations in Asia, for example Cambodia and Japan, in recent years, Taiwan still stands alone in allowing for same sex couples to wed, which makes it all the more frustrating that they will not be able to compete in the upcoming Gay Games held in Hong Kong.

This is not because the Games are barring Taiwan, but because of the national security law in Hong Kong is too obviously a threat to Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ athletes for the Taiwanese government to ignore. To be clear, the Gay Games have said that they would welcome Taiwanese athletes. However they also stated, “[w]e are strictly non-partisan and non-political, and we ask all participants and visitors to respect and observe local laws and customs during their stay in Hong Kong.” This raises the question of if the Games are putting LGBTQ+ athletes and community at risk by continuing to hold the games in Hong Kong, who are subservient to China. China is not a nation known for its amazing record when it comes to human rights, including LGBTQ+ rights.

Under the NSL it is essentially possible to arrest people for anything. Some individuals have already been arrested for singing at democratic events, booing the Chinese national anthem, and flying protest flags. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Taiwan, who can’t even get international organizations who claim to put safety, health, diplomacy, and so on (see the UN, WHO, or even international aviation organizations), might be a bit worried about going to Hong Kong. It should be remembered that Hong Kong is now essentially a proxy state of Beijing, who routinely threatens to invade Taiwan, and erroneously and ahistorically, calls the multi-island nation a part of China.

Just like in the Olympics, Taiwan would be barred from using its name, this includes using Republic of China (ROC), which Russia decided to steal at this year’s Games in Tokyo. They would instead be forced to use the tremendously absurd ‘Chinese Taipei’ or perhaps more insulting ‘Taiwan region’. Besides this insult which Taiwan generally accepts so its athletes can compete on the global stage, competing in Hong Kong is even more dangerous.

With the NSL, athletes could potentially be jailed for flying the ROC flag or even just stating simple facts like that Taiwan is an independent and free country. Certainly any solidarity with the millions of Hong Kongers that demand reform from their government would be a jailable offence. Also things that many would not necessarily think about could presumably result in jail time, or worse.

A possible example of this is this year’s bronze medalist in the female flyweight category, Huang Hsiao-wen (黃筱雯). Huang, a Taiwanese athlete, received the adoration of many Taiwanese fans because the boxing phenom had a tattoo of the biggest island in Taiwan on her arm, also she’s a fantastic boxer. In Hong Kong, this could potentially be seen as ‘seditious’ and result in a multi-year sentence in prison, or possibly being sent to a black site over the border in China. The thing with draconian laws laid out by authoritarian states is that they’re often intentionally vague on purpose, so that they can be arbitrarily abused. This can be seen in laws like the Chinese charge of ‘Picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ (寻衅滋事) which can carry sentences that require jail times in the double digits. This essentially allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to arrest anyone that it believes is too much of a threat or annoyance. This is obviously a concern for the athletes, coaches, fans, and government of Taiwan. It also raises questions about Beijing 2022.

Huang's Taiwan tattoo.

Taiwan, or ChInEsE tAiPeI, did compete in the last Olympic Games in the one party state in 2008. Though before doing so they did have some demands, including refusing to allow the torch to pass through their nation, due to potential misperception that Taiwan is a part of China. They also negotiated regarding their place in the march of nations for similar reasons. Though it is yet to be seen what the Tsai administration’s position on Beijing 2022, and that of the population of Taiwan, will be.

My hope is that Taiwan will demand to be called its rightful name, use its flag (whether I like that flag or not), and anthem (same as the flag thing). It will of course be denied and hopefully become an international story giving Taiwan more coverage and showing people the true nature of the situation. This is unlikely to occur as it, like the fact that 24 plus million Taiwanese are still breathing, would “enrage Beijing”, as if that should matter to anyone. Last I checked democratic nations don’t bow to authoritarian ones. Though it is understandable that Taiwan would be nervous about provoking China with its truth speaking as China is a nuclear armed power and Taiwan is unsure about allies coming to its aid in the event of a belligerent invasion by the PRC.

I similarly hope that one day both the Taiwanese and Hong Kong people may breathe free and be allowed to choose their own destiny instead of being used as pawns by other world powers. I also pray that the athletes in the Gay Games will be free from harassment and homophobia during the 2022 games, though I’m not especially optimistic of this being that the CCP has a history, until very recently, of homophobia and sexism. To make sure that we can have a world where everyone is free to be who they truly are we cannot continue to be “non-political”, we must be overtly political and put ideology, equality, and human rights before appeasement of countries with a thick wallet.