A demonstration for LGBT rights in the capital of Taiwan yesterday was attended by thousands of people, many in eye-catching costumes.

The Taipei Rainbow Power parade is the largest such event in Asia. Organisers estimate 15,000 people took part in the parade or crowded into the streets to show their support.

“Showing off the power of the LGBT communities and their supporters is the theme of this year’s parade,” an event spokesman, who wished to be known as Goffy, told the Taipei Times.

The parade was organised LGBT groups from around Taiwan and by a coalition of organisations supportive of gay rights.

Gay activism in Taiwan has grown stronger in past years, with politicians courting the pink vote, especially in the run up to the legislative elections at the end of the year and the presidential elections next March.

But politicians don’t always back up their promises for greater tolerance through legislation after they are elected, according to the president of the Taiwan Tongzhi (a Chinese euphemism for gay) Hotline Association.

“Some candidates who have shown support for gay, bisexual and transgender groups during their campaigns never did anything after being elected,” he said.

“Some did push for new legislation or amendments, but in the end they were stuck because of opposition from conservative legislators.”

It has become common for politicians to speak at Taipei Pride -

this year the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou spoke before the parade started, pledging to lobby for legislation to protect LGBT rights.

The current president Chen Shui-bian has proclaimed his support for gay rights in the past, including the right to marry and to adopt children.

However, these warm sentiments are very seldom followed by action in parliament, which is also conspicuous for its lack of publicly gay members.

The gay scene in Taiwan has blossomed since the first pride parade in 2003, which attracted only 1000 marchers. There are now gay cafes and bookshops opening.

But while tolerance has grown, equality laws still lag behind, especially regarding the right to marry.