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15 Dec 2008

1,200 march at Hong Kong's first official gay pride parade

Although the Dykes on Bikes had to leave their machines at home and the event had to do without a double-decker bus organisers intended to rent, some 1,200 people turned out for Hong Kong's first official gay-pride parade on Saturday.

At last it has happened. Hong Kong's first gay pride parade processed through the crowded streets of Hong Kong Island on the afternoon of Saturday 13 December. And it was a huge success. Some 1,200 men and women, young and old, mostly gay but with some straight friends too, marched for just under two hours from the assembly point outside the Causeway Bay MTR entrance in Great George Street, one of the most congested places on the face of the planet, straight along the major East-West thoroughfare of Hennessy Road to its final destination in the public Southern Playground near Wanchai's station.

From the top: Hong Kong's first gay pride parade through Causeway Bay and Hennessy Road, Women's Coalition of the HKSAR, co-organiser Kenneth Cheung of Rainbow of Hong Kong, co-organisers Connie Chan and Ah Lik (left), LGBT bankers' group, Taiwanese contingent, Midnight Blue (male sex workers' support group) and Amnesty International Hong Kong
While Hong Kong has held three annual marches since 2005 to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), this was the first official gay pride parade. Banners and flags marked the different groups who took part, making the half kilometre length of the march a rainbow coloured ribbon threading its way down a main street packed with shoppers and passersby. The mood of the march was joyous, everyone chanting slogans of love and equality to the beating of drums and the applause and waves of many onlookers and the crowds that thronged the bridges crossing the road to get a glimpse of a sight never before seen in Hong Kong. The passengers of passing trams joined in with waves, cheers and shouted greetings. Though there were some bemused and indifferent faces in the crowd there were no anti-gay protesters to spoil this very happy day.

The march was all on foot. Hong Kong's police, out in force and doing a very careful job of ensuring no one got knocked down by the still passing streams of buses and cars, had ruled, sadly, that Dykes on Bikes had to leave their machines at home. The only other vehicle organisers planned to have at the parade was a bus, both to be a focus for the parade and to provide a platform for its PA system and music. The bus didn't materialise. Citybus, the company that organisers approached to rent a double-decker, informed them several days before the parade that they are unwilling to rent them a bus. According to local media reports, the bus company reportedly said that although a bus was available, they considered various factors, including the "image of our company" when they refused the booking.

It was too late to rent another one, so everybody ended up walking and the kit went in a van, but it was not too late for a demonstration to be organised several days before the Parade outside the Citybus offices, where the company was called upon to account for what seemed to all concerned a blatant case of discrimination. This issue will not be forgotten and the Hong Kong Government has already taken the step of asking the company for an explanation.

At the Parade's destination a large platform had been erected in the sports ground and a programme of celebration was performed by the groups involved in the Parade to entertain the marchers and the public in the park. There were too many organisations represented in the 30 member Pride committee to list them all here, but the four principal ones coordinating the day were the Women's Coalition of the HKSAR; Rainbow of Hong Kong; Midnight Blue, the Hong Kong organisation reaching out to male sex workers; and the Social Movement Resource Centre Autonomous 8A, which had organised the highly successful 'Straights for Gays' march in Kowloon around the time of IDAHO earlier in the year. All these led the marchers in a declaration and pledge based upon the Pride Parade's theme of 'Celebrate Love'.

Midnight Blue's contingent, dressed in traditional costumes, showed off their Chinese Zang dancing skills. One of their leading members, Wai, who marched through the streets with his fellows in a police uniform just enough unlike the Chinese or Hong Kong Police's uniform to prevent his arrest for impersonation, and was a key figure in putting together the Parade's administrative back up, told me that he 'wished to show Hong Kong a happy celebration of what tongzhi(meaning comrade in Chinese but commonly used to refer to lesbians and gay men) meant' and hoped that the event would develop in future more and more into the kind of street party enjoyed in other major cities. He and similarly clad fellow members of Midnight Blue did their best to make this happen this time by divesting themselves of their uniforms in a Hong Kong version of 'The Full Monty' on stage. Bryan Chan, of Hong Kong's Dimsum Magazine (who has been known just occasionally to be seen in drag at tongzhi events), appeared this time as the glamorous 'Coco', but kept his clothes on, his sparkling bodice, plumed headdress and tight boots being far too splendid and difficult to remove. He belted out some old favourites from Anita Mui and Paula Tsui. No lip synching here!

Connie Chan, leading member of the Women's Coalition, and one of the Parade's coordinators, told me that she was ecstatic about the turnout. She said that the committee had planned initially for 250 people (this was, after all, the first Pride Parade in a city where it is still not easy to come out and where most find it more than hard to tell their parents, let alone to be open to their employers, about their sexual orientation). But this had rapidly become 500 then 1,000, and the numbers who came to march exceeded everyone's dreams.

Hong Kong was helped out by contingents from other Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yunnan and Gweizhou, all of which marched under identifying banners. Representatives from Taiwan also marched. From the platform, they all said they hoped to be able to repeat Hong Kong's success with Pride Parades of their own one day.

Two events completed the Pride programme. That night, just off Lang Kwai Fong in Central, at the newly opened bar Does Your Mother Know, a large number of those whose mothers did, and many whose mothers probably didn't, celebrated the day's triumph with an After Parade Party. Joint party organisers Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni, coordinators of the lesbian social salon Les Peches, told me that while the numbers of people at this first Pride were not so important as the fact of its being held at all, they were delighted that so many had had the courage to turn out. Eric Herrera of Fruits in Suits, the Hong Kong gay social network, and their fellow party host, echoed this and said that their party, a fundraiser for the parade, hoped to pay over HK$20,000 (US$2,580) to its funds, and was intended to end a happy day with a bang. Which it truly did.

On Sunday, 13 December, an event was held at Hong Kong's Baptist University to share the lessons of the Parade and to hold an open forum on many LGBT issues similarly affecting China, Hong Kong and Taiwan; living with AIDS, family relationships, civil rights and the use of the legal system in achieving them. The Baptist University is no stranger to hosting tongzhi events; Ken Zai, Rainbow Hong Kong's founder and leading member and a key figure in the organisation of the Pride Parade, had appeared here the week before to celebrate his organisation's 10th anniversary with a musical concert at which he personally performed a medley of popular songs, as he did again after the Parade in Southern Park.

Whilst the 30-member committee that organised the Pride Parade will dissolve after its conclusion, it will, in some form, re-assemble next year to plan 2009's Pride. The intention is make Hong Kong's Pride bigger and better as the years go by.

Hong Kong


1. 2008-12-15 19:26  
I wish i was there this year but coming for xmas/new year instead.I am also very happi that so many turned up for the parade knowing how hard it must be for some to be there.
It makes me value Sydneys Mardi Gras so much more.
3. 2008-12-15 19:32  
Hi Fridae Mates :-)
Greetings from Tokyo.

Here I put links to the Hong Kong Pride 2008.
Thanks for all the support for this memorable event.

Please add "ht" to URLs.

Hong Kong Pride Official Website

A Gay-Pride Revolution in Hong Kong (News)

Hong Kong Pride 2008 Theme Song

Hong Kong Pride 2008 by Apple Daily

Hong Kong Pride 2008 Show Time

Hong Kong Pride Parade 2008 (long version)
4. 2008-12-15 21:42  
Thank you everyone. Well done.

Shame on Citybus, dinosaur corporate. Not even able to do its basic job of providing a bus.

Never mind. We'll keep up the spirits - we'll do our bit in making HK a better place.
5. 2008-12-15 21:46  
Too bad I missed this 1st annual important Pride parade. Go gay HONG KONG go!!
6. 2008-12-15 23:01  
i feel so sorry that i miss the very first gay pride in hk last saturday, oh no...
louis in macau
7. 2008-12-15 23:08  
when will SIngapore ever host a similar event... And will there be as much support from the local gay population to start with... I sit at home watching with envy the way the event was being held.

One day.... maybe one day... on the streets of Singapore... from Club Street to Orchard... we shall see...
8. 2008-12-16 00:02  
Finally we got the first parade and I am proud to be part of history!
Those who missed it this time, join next year!
9. 2008-12-16 00:35  
dear people of hong kong,

we salute you and celebrate your pride and courage.

As one who was arrested or detained briefly inside the Stonewall Club on Christopher Street in New York City in 1969 during the "Stonewall Riots", I am very proud of you all.

Keep up the good work and the struggle never ends.

Michael Asia
10. 2008-12-16 03:50  
Go Hong Kong!!! We in NYC will want to travel to Hong Kong to celebrate with you next year! :)
11. 2008-12-16 08:04  
Congratulations! A positive step indeed, and good to see. And, for once, I wanna be the first guy with a shallow note here under a post - May I say that Mr White Bow Tie in the pic for this story looks pretty niiiiiiiiiiice, ha ha! Good luck to all in HK! :-)
12. 2008-12-16 12:09  

我果日放工放4點 lor....唉!!!
13. 2008-12-16 12:15  
good job! we want fair! ... これからも、がんばってね~ ^^
14. 2008-12-16 12:54  
Congratulations Hong Kong on your very first official gay parade!! It must have been a happy day - Wish I could have been there with you all. Perhaps next year :o)
15. 2008-12-16 13:02  
It was truly great to see Hong Kong finally hosting a pride parade. My congratulations go out to the organisers and the participants.

I was quite baffled by the protest outside the bus company. Although the company did not agree to rent the bus, i believed the decision is made purely on a commercial basis. I do not know the facts about this case, but i think a protest is unnecessary. It will only make us seems aggressive, and will not help in our attempts to let the society understands us and embraces us. I believe instead of accusing the company of discrimination, the GLBT community should hold dialogue sessions with them and explain the true objectives of the pride parade.

I think this work here in Singapore too. The main point is not to let homophobic people be on their defensive by aggravating them. It will make things worse.
16. 2008-12-16 15:30  
But the bus company admitted to not renting the gay pride parade organisers a bus because they felt the association adversely impacts their company's image?!

I agree that the organisers should publicise this; it's no different from establishments that refuse entry to LGBT folks.

17. 2008-12-16 19:23  
Congrats HK!

I think they were right to protest the Bus company's action if it was discriminatory, and no doubt they will take them to court too: discrimination in the provision of services to gays is illegal in HK I believe. You can't live your life in fear of upsetting homophobes, Lobster, it's too short, and you have more support than you might think. We have to be prepared to stand up for ourselves before they will even begin to listen to our point of view.

Post #6 bearfreak says "I sit at home watching with envy the way the event was being held. "

Try repeating:

"If it's to be, it's up to me
If it's to be, it's up to me" (ad infinitum)

It works!

18. 2008-12-16 23:34  
Singapore will be holding it's very own, analogous open-air LGBT event at Hong Lim Park early next year.
Watch out for it!
19. 2008-12-17 01:49  
Well Wish I could have been there, maybe next year, good luck guys and girls...
21. 2008-12-17 05:01  
Nice. Well done, Hong Kong.

I found the following line in the article that appeared in Time regarding this Parade (the link is also available in tokyofit's post further down):

"...We came out today to show the world that people in the queer community are normal people too," said Ariel Wong, a 21-year-old student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University..."

I thought that sums up very well what such gay parades should be trying to achieve. Rather than turning people off by dressing up in bizarre outfits (including practically naked) and doing and saying bizarre things, we should be working unitedly on presenting the image of a "normal" community.

We need to make sure that all parades in future project this image of "normal": from the way we dress up, the messages and things we display, and the things we say.

How can we possibly be regarded as "normal" if the ONLY image we show of ourselves is bizarre? Actions speak louder than words, don't they?

The Parade is the most visual aspect of the gay community. Shouldn't we be trying to use this opportunity to create a great and lasting impression?

For example, is it really that important to have giant inflated rubber genitals being passed around? What exactly does that do for the community?

Some people assume for some bizarre reason that by holding up inflated rubber genitals they are "expressing themselves". No, they're not. It just makes them look infantile. Ever seen a small baby playing with its genitals? That's what they look like. And, the very sight of that is enough to guarantee that no one will take them (or us) seriously. "Infantile They" are going to muddy the water for "Normal We" too. "Oh, so THAT'S why they're known as queer!" would be the thought running through the minds of spectators witnessing this bizarre sight of a grown man holding aloft a giant rubber sex organ.

I would just LOVE to see a parade of people who understand that looking "normal" comes not from words but from the way they present themselves. Now, what an impact THAT parade would have: thousands of neatly dressed people (how about suits?!) carrying clean and friendly yet clear messages, walking through the streets, interacting with the public as "normal people" along the way. A child could be allowed to watch it freely, without its parents having to shield its eyes from unsightly rubber sex organs. That parade would scream "normal" without any of those people having to even open their mouths.
22. 2008-12-17 08:09  
I'm so proud of the people in Hong Kong. It's a shame that I couldn't be there otherwise i would have definitely joined the march.
24. 2008-12-17 14:17  
Congratulations Hong Kong!

You have to understand that the gay community is very diverse with the drag queens, muscle guys, and those doing a little showboating. That is all OK and so are those who want to present themselves like the average Joe. Throw in a few bands and a few floats and you are on your way. You need the entertainment to hold the people and then you can throw in a little education to enlighten the curious.

It only takes a few tries to see what people are looking for.

Steve from US
25. 2008-12-17 16:07  
i went there
26. 2008-12-17 17:18  
I have attended several occasions in San Diego Pride Festivals. It would be nice to see the HK's Gay Pride Parade in the future. As one of the major international cities, HK should have the "Pride Festival" to reflect the equality, fairness, diversity, love, and dignity among all people! Beyond these, perhaps the sequence pride festivals in HK can promote international tourism events like in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Good Job HK organisers!
27. 2008-12-19 04:30  
Hi, congratulations HK! And my dear ManFriday, I am wearing suits and ties and never hold up any inflatable whatever, but when I came out long ago I saw a sign reading 'Ever met normal people? And did you like it?' It has been my credo since then, think about it, what is normal, and to whom. But I would walk in your parade as well! Hugz, Dick, Amsterdam
28. 2008-12-19 05:51  
I am so happy and prowd those all people attanden pride. it is great because south asia and china is very back for gay and lesbian right. we all need to knock door to society city country n goverment.
29. 2008-12-19 09:57  

30. 2008-12-19 10:09  
Post #8 MichaelAsia ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

31. 2008-12-20 01:33  
Asialove, first of all, I had that same question with elementary maths :-) Just thought maybe it was somewhat like that kid in the movie Priscilla who gets into the bar with his dad.

The picture on my profile could represent true love with no barriers of colour etc. But it could mean different things to different people. Think of it as my very own Rorschach test for you!

Regarding loosening drawstrings and all that, not to worry: I don't bite;-)
32. 2008-12-21 02:17  
Congratulations Hong Kong!! Hope to see many of you here in Manila for the 15th Anniversary of the First Pride March in Asia.

Hugs to all of you!

Best regards,
Bruce Amoroto
Member, Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines
Coordinator-President, Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (TEAM PILIPINAS)
33. 2009-05-15 15:00  



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