On 23rd August 2016, Midnight Blue joined in a protest outside the Turkish Consulate in Hong Kong. The protestors called for justice for Hande Kader, a transgender sex worker in Turkey who was brutally murdered earlier the same month.
The protest in Hong Kong followed demonstrations across Turkey, where LGBTI and sex work communities report widespread harassment, and impunity for crimes committed against them. In a statement, Midnight Blue said:
“Ever since the new term of government took office, Pride Parade and Transgender Parades and activism [in Turkey] have been suppressed by tear gas, water cannons and even rubber bullets, in the name of safeguarding public order against terrorist threats. Meanwhile … over 40 transgender people have been murdered between 2008 and 2016.
“We demand that the Turkish government stop its oppression of LGBT people, sex workers and all others who are sexually stigmatized.
“We would like to express our support to those in Turkey by voicing out to the world that discrimination and hatred have caused these killings, and that all, no matter sex workers, transgenders, or homosexuals, are deserving of respect and security. We hope that the Turkish government protects the physical safety of sexual minorities as it should, and stop them from living in lasting fear.”
Midnight Blue, an NGO who works with male and transgender sex workers, also highlighted the abuses suffered by sex workers around the world and in Hong Kong. Their statement noted that society’s conservative views around sex often forces sex workers to do their job in dangerous venues. They gave the example of “one-woman-brothels” in Hong Kong where a sex worker can legally work alone, but not with other people – even for security. In 2008, serial murders of sex workers took place in these venues.
Impunity is a problem because police themselves often bully and harass sex workers with no accountability. Transgender sex workers in Hong Kong face additional abuse when they are arrested, detained and imprisoned. As well as experiencing verbal abuse, transgender sex workers may be strip searched by male police officers, detained in male prisons, denied hormone treatment during imprisonment, and held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time.
According to Midnight Blue “Neither the police, the Correctional Services, nor the Immigration Department in Hong Kong have ever formulated working guidelines in particular for transgender people, thus neglecting their needs, interests and rights.”
The statement closed with a call for unity and solidarity around the world:
“Our national borders do not divide us, and we are deeply angered by the harm done to our Turkish comrades! An injury to one is an injury to all. LGBTs, the impoverished, and all fellow oppressed must unite and stand together in the fight against the powered for our own freedom and autonomy!”
Midnight Blue was one of several organisations in Hong Kong who contributed to Amnesty International’s recent research in their report “Harmfully Isolated – Criminalizing Sex Work In Hong Kong.”