Hong Kong Trans-Rights Activist Wins Landmark Case, Still Fighting for Change

by Vins

In February 2023, Pink News published an article about Henry Edward Tse’s historic legal victory in Hong Kong, which declared that trans people should be able to have their genders put on their ID cards without gender-affirming surgery; still, he and the rest of the trans community in Hong Kong have a long way to go.

“In Hong Kong, a big issue is the lack of legislation,” Henry Tse told Pink News. “We’ve been talking about this for more than 25 years and we haven’t got any progress.”

Since 2017, Tse has been fighting for trans rights and has spent five years on this specific legal case where he wanted to be able to have the gender identifier on his ID changed. He had already transitioned in the UK, changed the gender on his UK passport, and received a Gender Recognition Certificate, but in Hong Kong, he still faces many issues. There was no way to change your gender marker in Hong Kong unless you had gotten gender-affirming surgery.

This makes life unlivable for trans people in Hong Kong. Specifically, a huge issue for trans people in Hong Kong is that everyone over the age of fifteen is required to have a government-issued photo ID with them at all times. They can be stopped and questioned by the police to see their ID at any time, which would instantly out Tse and others as trans. This also makes it impossible for them to use any public facility that is split by gender, and in using the facilities that match their ID, they could be arrested for soliciting. While Tse is grateful for his win, and for all of the work that has been done for all the people that have supported his journey, he knows that this victory barely scratches the surface of problems for trans people in Hong Kong. This policy should benefit all trans people in Hong Kong; however, unfortunately, it is clear that no one knows how things will change or if they will change with this ruling.

The corporate media coverage of this story is minimal. Mostly, there have been articles that have celebrated or accounted for this historic change in the law. One outlet in particular, The Hong Kong Free Press, went through all of the struggles of Tse’s life but focused on the positive side of the win, and of Tse’s fight for trans equality. Reuters published an article in March 2023 that explored the more specific protests in support of Tse’s lawsuit and against the delays that were happening with the case. The article discussed similar issues in China, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, where trans people are also fighting oppressive, anti-trans government policies.


Almond Li, “Hong Kong Trans Activist Henry Tse Fought for the Right to be Recognised as a Man without Full Surgery – and Won,” Hong Kong Free Press, February 13, 2023.

Maggie Baska, “Trans Man Who Won Historic Hong Kong Legal Case Still Can’t ‘Live a Normal Life,’” Pink News, February 17, 2023.

Student Researcher: Isabel Kirk (Drew University)

Faculty Evaluator: Lisa Lynch (Drew University)