Hong Kong's gay community on Wednesday blasted the government for refusing to carry out a public consultation on the implementation of anti-discrimination laws to protect sexual minorities.
Rights groups hoped chief executive Leung Chun-ying would use his maiden policy speech to launch a debate on the issue, with a view to outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.
In a survey of the city's gay community sponsored by British bank Barclays last year, 85 percent of people said they had experienced widespread discrimination and a "negative impact" at their workplace.
Although the Legislative Council in November voted down a motion to launch a public consultation on the issue, many hoped Leung would use his address to bring gay rights back into the spotlight.
"Society is deeply divided over this issue. Some are in support from the perspective of equal opportunity. Others are concerned that launching a consultation exercise may deal a blow to family, religion and education," he said.
"We will continue to listen to different views from various sectors. At present we have no plan to conduct consultation."
Following his speech three gay rights groups announced they were forming a coalition to push for new laws.
Activist Yeo Wai-wai said: "We have seen more and more complaints of discrimination. Hong Kong has the duty to protect the fundamental rights of everyone."
At the weekend thousands of Christians demonstrated outside government headquarters opposing the introduction of anti-discrimination laws, claiming they would restrict freedom of speech.
Hong Kong's first openly gay lawmaker, Raymond Chan from the radical pro-democracy People Power party, told AFP: "We were disappointed he (Leung) did not say a single thing on how to improve rights for the sexual minority group.
"But to look at it positively, I think this will make more people be concerned about gay rights in Hong Kong. The rainbow revolution will have to start now."