Hong Kong’s top court has ruled that transgender people should be allowed to change the gender shown on their government-issued ID without undergoing gender-affirming surgery.

Trans activist Henry Edward Tse and another trans man, known publicly only as “Q”, filed a legal challenge against the current policy – which says trans people can only update the gender on their ID cards if they undergo certain surgeries – in 2019.

Prior to the ruling, Tse told AFP that this policy “outed” trans people “every time” they show an ID to someone.

Now, in a decision written by Chief Justice Andrew Cheung and Justices PJ Ribeiro and PJ Fok, the Court of Final Appeal has ruled that this is a violation of the right to privacy, which is protected in the city’s Bill of Rights.

“The policy’s consequence is to place persons like the appellants in the dilemma of having to choose whether to suffer regular violations of their privacy rights or to undergo highly invasive and medically unnecessary surgery, infringing their right to bodily integrity. Clearly, this does not reflect a reasonable balance,” they wrote.

“Delayed justice”

Tse described the outcome as “delayed justice” after many trans people have had their dignity “damaged” by the policy.

“We all dreamt that we will not be outed by our ID cards anymore, that we will no longer be rejected to cross borders and come back to Hong Kong our home, and be stripped of our rights to marry and establish a family with the opposite sex,” he explained after the ruling.

“In every aspect of everyday life, our dignity has been damaged. This case should never have happened in the first place.”