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Transwoman ‘traumatized’ by police probe after CR row

02 June 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina transgender who was interrogated by police recently for using the ladies' toilet in a mall says she, backed by some supporters, is contemplating a legal challenge to the gender-sensitive laws of Hong Kong.
“The incident has traumatized me that I’ll never go to that mall again,” said B, a university lecturer, in an interview. She now fears that if she goes to other malls and uses the women’s toilet, she will go through the same experience again.
The incident happened in early May when B decided to use the female toilet on the fourth floor of the mall to relieve herself, and a similar washroom on the third floor shortly after to adjust her bra and panties
It was when she emerged from the third-floor washroom that two men in civilian clothes saying they were police officers asked her to step aside to answer some questions
“They were showing me their IDs and were asking for my ID, but I was so scared I just walked on,” B said
“My immediate feeling and reaction was fear and doubt that they may not be real police but poseurs,” she said. “Honestly, if they were in uniform, I would have stopped and submitted to interrogation. It would not have dragged on for about an hour, but fear dominated me,” B said.
Unconvinced that the men were real police, B said she even told them to stop following her.
Then two other plainclothes men arrived and were later joined by a long-haired woman in civilian clothes who was introduced as a policewoman. The female officer asked for her Hong Kong ID and she showed it.
B recalled being asked about her gender, to which she answered she was a transgender woman. Asked why she used the women’s toilet, she pointed to her breasts, hair and body and said with her overall looks “I should not be using the men’s but the women’s only”.
As the episode unfolded, several passersby, some of them Filipinas, watched and stared, making B feel embarrassed.
Sensing this, the officers invited her to an exit where the policewoman checked her backpack’s contents, including her purse, her credit card and university ID. One asked if she was a student and she replied she was a lecturer teaching Sexuality and Gender.  
The police only relented when the female officer checked her mobile phone and saw pictures of B after undergoing surgery, as well as photos of different men she had met on dating sites.
Asked by The SUN to comment on the incident, a duty officer of the Police Public Relations Branch issued the following statement: “Police provide services to all members of the public in an impartial and respectful manner irrespective of their gender, family status, race and whether or not they are disabled. Police acknowledge that some persons may have special needs and therefore will adopt an empathetic, practical and sensible approach while conducting any search.
“Police will arrange an officer of the same sex as the person to be searched to conduct a search on that person. In accordance with the existing legal provisions, Police will determine the gender of a person based on the information stated in his/her Hong Kong Identity Card.”
The incident has so traumatized B that she is now considering whether to stay in Hong Kong for long.
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