On the morning of the 17th September, a rainbow flag will be raised above the City Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

It will be the first such ceremony in Asia, and a powerful symbol of the embryonic gay rights movements across the continent.

The flag ceremony will signal the start of the seventh “LGBT Civil Rights Movement – Queer-friendly Taipei” festival to be held in the city.

Taipei, a city of some 2.6m people, will host a gay art exhibition, a gay parade on the 30th September and discussions at City Hall about gay rights.

The city’s Dept of Civil Affairs is hosting the events, and invited Christian protesters to take part in the City Hall discussions. The city hopes to promote respect for minority rights and cultural diversity.

“The recognition of the rights of gays and lesbians by all people requires making a long-term effort step by step.

“This festival will establish a bridge and allow the public to better understand the gay community,” Wang Ping , secretary-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association in Taiwan, told The Taipei Times.

Gay activists also plan to hold gay ‘wedding’ ceremonies, though the city authorities denied claims from Christian groups that they were promoting gay marriage before it is leagalised.

In 2003,Taiwan became the first Asian country to announce its intention to legalise same-sex marriage, but there has been no legislative action , despite pressure from gay rights activists.