Thousands of people gathered in Central for a somewhat diminished pride assembly this afternoon after police nixed the annual rally’s plans to march from Victoria Park to Edinburgh Place.
According to organizers, more than 6,500 people attended this year’s Hong Kong Pride assembly, just over half of the 12,000 people that took part in last year’s parade.
Citing safety concerns amid the city’s ongoing protest movement, police this week said participants would have to restrict their activities to a stationary assembly at Edinburgh Place, making it reportedly the first time organizers have been denied permission to march.
Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, said on stage that despite there being a higher level of acceptance in Hong Kong towards the LGBTQ community, as well as progress towards legal recognition of certain rights for same-sex couples thanks to recent court cases, there was still a long way to go in terms of achieving equality for the community.
“We are disappointed and furious that there is still not a public consultation on the legislation for sexual orientation discrimination, despite fighting for it over the past few decades. On the bright side, the LGBT movement in Hong Kong has brought together an increasing number of people from 1,000 in the first parade to 12,000 participants last year.”
One of the people attending the rally was Billy Leung, an LGBTQ activist who in 2004 filed for a judicial review of an archaic law governing the age of consent for anal sex, which at that time was 21. Leung had argued that the law discriminated against gay men as the age of consent for vaginal sex was 16.
The High Court agreed, ruling that the unequal age of consent was unconstitutional under the Bill of Rights, leading to the age of consent for anal sex being lowered to 16.
Leung told Coconuts HK that he was disappointed that they didn’t get a parade this year, but was still happy to see so many people at the gathering.
“I think it’s important to be here not only as a gay person, but to support the community event,” he said. “This is an important event for the community, and I think it’s important to be out and be seen and have our voices heard, despite what is happening now. I’m glad we still have this space to be seen.”
He echoed Sham’s remarks, saying: “At this moment there’s a lot going on, but I think for the LGBT community, the community has been fighting in Hong Kong on issues such as anti-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and sex characteristics, marriage equality, as well as removing the barriers for trans people to have their gender affirmed. I think these are areas that are important, and the top issues to prioritize.”
In Hong Kong, it is against the law to discriminate against someone based on sex, race, disability, or family status, leaving a legal gap that means it’s still technically legal to discriminate someone on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
While the focus of today’s pride event was on achieving equality for Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community, the anti-government sentiment behind Hong Kong’s long-running protests wasn’t hard to find, with some attendees dressed in black and waving rainbow flags, chanting protest slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” and “Five demands, not one less.”
Another person to express disappointment with the police decision to ban this year’s parade was a 26-year-old woman who gave her name as Kaso, and who was carrying a “Stand With Hong Kong” placard with rainbow flags drawn on it.
“I feel really sad about this, really disappointed, because Hong Kong Pride Parade, or Pride Parade in general, has a really important meaning for the LGBT community, and today we only have a small space to do our promoting of LGBT equality,” she said. “It means we more have suppression towards our identity, which is a disappointing issue.”
When asked why she was attending, Kaso said: “There has been a lot going on in Hong Kong, and as a Hongkonger, I would like to stand with Hong Kong people telling others that we don’t only have one identity as a Hong Kong person, but we have multiple identities. For example, ethnic minorities or LGBT community, so no matter what identity you hold, not matter what belief you hold, we stand together, we connect, and this is what diversity is about.”
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