More than 1,000 people took part in the first officially sanctioned gay Pride event in Hong Kong on Saturday. It was organised by a coalition of HIV organisations and LGBT groups.
A rainbow-coloured dragon was the highlight of the parade, which featured none of the semi-nudity and outrageous displays that are common at other Prides.
While gay marches and parades have taken place in Taiwan, the Hong Kong event was the first of its kind in China.
“We came out today to show the world that people in the queer community are normal people too,” Ariel Wong, a 21-year-old student, told TIME.
Amnesty International’s LGBT coordinator in Hong Kong, Medeleine Mok, said: “In mainland China, it’s impossible to have a gay Pride march, so this is a very important day that has attracted many people to Hong Kong.”
In 2007 a social support centre for the gay community in Hong Kong opened, the first of its kind in the country.
In October experts in Hong Kong revealed that one third of men who have sex with men could be infected with HIV unless prevention measures work.
There have been sharp rises in the number of men getting the virus through gay sex.
In 2003 there were 50 – up to 112 in 2006.
“If all our actions fail, by 2020 we can have one-third infected in the community. Some of them may go on to infect women,” said Wong Ka-hing, consultant for the Hong Kong government’s Centre for Health Protection.
“There are three clusters (of infection).
“We investigated and found common risk factors like a number of people attending the same sex parties, internet use, using recreational drugs, unsafe sex.”
The highest court in Hong Kong decriminalised gay public sodomy last year in a ruling that advocates called a victory for China’s gay rights movement.
A panel of five top judges unanimously ruled that two men, who acknowledged engaging in anal sex in a parked car, should not be subject to the country’s maximum penalty of five years in prison.
In 2006 the age of consent in Hong Kong was equalised at 16.