City's first gay-pride parade a chance to 'celebrate love' and fly the flag

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am

It was a parade of colour, joy and expression.

The city's first-ever pride march for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community kicked off in Causeway Bay yesterday with hundreds of people walking from Hennessy Road to Wan Chai's Southorn Playground.

'The theme of this year is 'celebrate love',' said Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung, founder of the gay rights group Rainbow of Hong Kong.

'We want the LGBT community members to join the parade and celebrate love - to say to the public, 'We have the right to our love, and we want equal opportunity in our society',' he said.

Rainbow of Hong Kong organised the walk along with the Women Coalition of HKSAR, HKFS Social Movement Resource Centre and Midnight Blue, a support group for male sex workers.

Many marchers donned costumes, carried banners or waved rainbow pride flags.

Organisers expected 1,000 people, including supporters from Taiwan and the mainland, to take part.

Plenty of passers-by approved of the demonstration, but others appeared opposed, puzzled or indifferent. Philip Lo, 38, a financial planner, watched as the marchers went past and said the group not only had the freedom to assemble, but the right to love one another.

Asked what reactions he saw along the route, Mr Lo said: 'People are looking a little strange at what they see, but I haven't heard anything negative.'

One 28-year-old graphic designer from Shenzhen said he did not like the parade.

He then grabbed the reporter's pen and wrote 'Aids' on a notepad. 'A woman and man must be together,' he said. Barry Lee, 40, a social worker from Hong Kong, walked in the procession and wore a piece of rainbow cloth around one of his wrists. The rally was important to him because 'it shows the community we exist, we are here'.

'There are so many stereotypes about gays and lesbians,' Mr Lee said.

'The more the public knows about us, what we are and who we are, the less ignorance there will be.'

During the march, more than 25 people walked with a large rainbow flag.

Answering a question about the size of the flag, a bearer quipped, 'about the size of a double-decker bus' - a reference to how Citybus recently refused to rent a double-decker to parade organisers.

The event was not easy to pull together, said Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for the Women Coalition of HKSAR.

The manpower was not there, neither was the money, she said, and the Citybus situation did not help the organisers.

Fortunately, there were volunteers, she said.

'They want it; they need it,' Ms Chan said.

'It's time for Hong Kong to have a pride parade just like the other modern Asian cities.'