Hong Kong pop star Anthony Wong kept his revelation for the end of the concert. Then, before thousands of fans, lit by a single pool of spotlight, Mr. Wong put an end to years of public speculation. “People don’t need to guess whether or not I’m a tongzhi [Chinese slang for homosexual] anymore,” he said on the last night of his concert series at the Hong Kong Coliseum earlier this week. “I’m saying, I’m gay. I’m a homosexual. G-A-Y.”
Whoops and cheers from the crowd greeted the announcement by the singer and producer, who followed his announcement with a roguish jab at the city’s paparazzi. “I’m sorry, members of the media. For the next 20 years, I’ll keep singing songs, but you don’t need to ask me this question any longer” he declared.
Mr. Wong’s announcement might not have shocked Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, which has long speculated about the singer’s sexual orientation, but the boldness of his announcement was still unusual. Mr. Wong, who first gained popularity in the 80s as a music icon as part of the duo Tat Ming Pair, is only the second high-profile Hong Kong performer to publicly come out, says Waiwai Yeo of the Women Coalition of Hong Kong, a nonprofit gay-rights organization. The first, says Ms. Yeo, was Cantopop giant Leslie Cheung, the beloved singer who featured in hit films such as Farewell My Concubine but struggled with depression for years. In 2003, Mr. Cheung jumped to his death from the 24th floor of Hong Kong’s Mandarin Hotel.
“It’s been nine years we’ve seen a singer announce publicly that he’s openly gay or openly bisexual,” says Ms. Yeo. “So Mr. Wong’s announcement is a good sign.”
The pop star’s latest move is especially encouraging, says Ms. Yeo, given how shuttered the city’s attitudes have traditionally been toward gays and lesbians. In 2005, for example, a government survey of over 2,000 telephone respondents found that 39% believed homosexuality “contradicts the morals of the community.” When the WCHK was founded nearly a decade ago, at the time, she says, “We didn’t even have the courage to support a Pride Parade.”
Hong Kong’s first Pride Parade was held in 2008, with about 1,000 participants, says Ms. Yeo. Last year’s attracted 2,500, but still a far cry from the millions who flock to the annual pride parades in Brazil and elsewhere. Hong Kongers are gradually growing more comfortable with publicly sharing their sexual orientation, Ms. Yeo says. Still, she adds, artists have been discouraged by their recording companies from participating in the Pride Parade, for fear of how doing so may impact their public image.
Even as the city’s attitudes slowly improve, she says, gays and lesbians in Hong Kong remain incredibly vulnerable. For one thing, as she notes, the Chinese territory hasn’t yet passed a law to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“So especially for people who are not Mr. Wong, you can see how hard it is for the community to come out” she says.
Across the border, news of Mr. Wong’s announcement out grabbed the attention of legions of Chinese Internet users. As of this afternoon, Mr. Wong’s stadium-style coming out was the sixth most searched-for item on Weibo. Many were admiring of Mr. Wong’s bravery, though some were apprehensive.
“I hope he won’t come to the same tragic end as Leslie Cheung,” wrote one user.
Still others were more concerned about how this might affect Mr. Wong’s female fan base. As one Shandong-based user wrote, “How many girls’ hearts will this news break?”