Thousands of people dressed in pink on Sunday flocked to Hong Kong’s largest LGBTQ carnival, held outdoors for the first time since 2018, with organisers saying the controversial Gay Games recently hosted by the city have drummed up support for the community.
All public speeches at the Pink Dot HK 2023 carnival, however, were cancelled after a request by police to end the event at the West Kowloon Cultural District an hour earlier at 8pm due to crowd control concerns over a nearby fireworks show.
“We cannot cut the entertainer programmes as they had already rehearsed,” carnival co-organiser Brian Leung Siu-fai said. “So we decided to cut all the sharing speeches by the involved organisations.”
Leung said he acknowledged that police resources were being spread thin with the district council election that coincided with the fireworks event, which posed challenges for the force in case any conflicts arose during the annual carnival.
A police source said earlier that up to 12,000 officers would be deployed across the city to boost security during the revamped poll on Sunday.
“Police put forward several requests during the meetings on Thursday and Friday,” he said. “As the organisers, we do our best to accommodate them.”
He also noted that the force checked the venue in the afternoon and found that the organisers had strictly limited attendees to no more than 3,500.
“I believe that if we can successfully bring the event back outdoors this year, it’s quite reasonable to make some concessions in certain details,” Leung said. “We cannot lose the sense of community.”
Themed “Love Out Loud”, this year’s carnival hosted more than 70 stores and community booths, including arts and crafts and pet adoption, and featured performances by local singers and drag queens on the main stage.
Wilson Chiang, a 42-year-old project manager who spent the afternoon at the carnival with his wife and three-year-old daughter, said he felt welcomed at every booth despite some opposition to the event.
“Inclusivity matters,” Chiang said. “It’s a free event where everyone can find their favourite booths and enjoy a day off just sitting on the lawn with good weather and music.
“I respect people who oppose the Gay Games and the Pink Dot event, but people who want to participate also deserve the same respect.”
Among the attendees was Hong Kong Gay Games co-chair Alan Lang, who said he was amazed by the changes in how the city had become more positive and upbeat towards the community after last month’s Games.
He added: “It is great to see the LGBTQ community thriving again after it came together for the nine-day Games, and then again here today at Pink Dot.”
Legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu last week called the overlapping of the carnival with the election a “distraction” and urged people not to attend the “unhealthy” event.
Ho was also among anti-LGBTQ lawmakers who appealed to authorities last month to shut down the Gay Games on national security grounds.