• A pair of lions guarding the HSBC building in Hong Kong have been given a rainbow makeover for LGBTQIA+ rights. (AAP)Source: AAP
The move has angered some community groups and sparked an LGBTQIA+ rights debate.
Alyssa Braithwaite

7 Dec 2016 - 3:53 PM  UPDATED 7 Dec 2016 - 3:53 PM

Stephen and Stitt - the famous lions that guard the HSBC building in Hong Kong - have been given a rainbow makeover to celebrate the bank's campaign for LGBTQIA+ rights.

The multicoloured replicas have been welcomed by many who have posed for selfies with the statues, but it has sparked a new debate about gay rights. 

HSBC Group general manager Kevin Martin said the "Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity" campaign demonstrated the company's commitment to diversity.

"Understanding and embracing everyone's unique perspectives, beliefs and experiences is core to HSBC's values. This campaign demonstrates our commitment to achieving a truly open and diverse working environment," he said.

However, the move has angered several groups, including the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group, Parents for the Family Association, and Overturning LGBT Agenda, who have started a petition against the lions and accused HSBC of "trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.

In a joint statement, the groups protested against the decision, saying the lions "are really ugly, disgusting and losing all the strength and stamina of the original lions". 

They called on HSBC to "be cautious in the future not to express any support to the homosexual movement before adequately soliciting the opinions of the customers, otherwise it may hurt their feelings". 

Roger Wong, from the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group told the BBC: "The male lions represent the stability and power of the bank. By adding a rainbow on the lions - does that mean they're homosexual? I find that objectionable - and they don't look that aesthetically good either."

Opinions are divided in Hong Kong when it comes to social issues like LGBT+ rights. According to a 2011 survey, 22 per cent of respondents said they were "not accepting" of lesbian, gay and transgender individuals, and another 21 per cent said they felt ambivalent or unsure. 

A quarter of those surveyed felt it was "acceptable" or "sometimes acceptable" to not offer a job to an LGBT person.

On social media, people have been overwhelmingly supportive of the show of support for LGBT+ people.