GayPride2013Hong Kong’s streets were flooded with rainbow flags today as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community marched in the annual Gay Pride Parade.

Organisers estimate that around five thousand people participated in the rally that started in Causway Bay and ended in Admiralty’s Tamar Park. The theme of this year’s parade was “We stand for love, we stand for LGBT”.

“I’m very happy to be here to support you, and hope that you can also influence everyone else in society to move forward,” said Dr. York Chow Yat-ngok, Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), donning the parade’s ‘Hot Red’ dress code.

This was the first time the EOC actively participated in the parade and is in line with the promise to protect gay rights that Dr. Chow, a devoted Christian, pledged when began his appointment in April.

Local participants were joined by groups from the local expat community, Taiwan and Mainland China, where large public gatherings are prohibited. Some members of the Chinese LGBT community have however found ways of getting around such legal obstacles.

ShanghaiPRIDE project manager Evie Wu said over 5,000 people participated in this year’s LGBT sponsored event that took place in June. Referred to simply as Pride5, it encompasses a series of organised art, sport, theatrical and movie events to which participants wear specific colours as a mark of recognition.

Wu insists this is not in defiance of the law but as a way to get around the regulations prohibiting large gatherings in public spaces. Local police, she says, are aware of what is happening and just want them to be safe. “We want more local LGBTs to come out, like artists and movie directors,” she said referring to next year’s Pride6.

Hong Kong is home to many LGBT organisations that span across all spectrums of the gay community, however some believe the groups need to work together more.

Local ‘grass roots’ groups that are, amongst other things, behind the planning of the Gay Pride Parade, and organisations that have more synergies with the expat and foreign community, rarely come together and support each other, activists said.

Part of the explanation is the linguistic divide, organisers said. According to some parade  participant, many in people in the Hong Kong expat community were not even aware of the parade. Unlike cities like Berlin and San Francisco, where Gay Pride Parades attract huge media coverage, here it has been limited.

“The LGBT community in general needs more sense of cohesion,” said newly elected Mr. Gay Hong Kong, Michael Morrill. “We’re all working for very good causes… but there is still a lot of division within the community itself.”

He added, “If we all came together, like we do at Pride, it’s unthinkable the amount of change we could bring about. I want to be the glue.”