Monday, May 15, 2017

Foreigners barred from Singapore gay-pride rally: organizers

SINGAPORE - Foreigners will be barred from attending Singapore's annual gay-pride rally, its organizers said, as the city-state tightens rules against the involvement of non-Singaporeans in protests.

Singapore's Pink Dot rally, which started in 2009, has attracted crowds of up to 28,000 despite a backlash from conservative groups in a state where protests are strictly controlled.

However, the government implemented new rules in November allowing only citizens and permanent residents to attend such events, which take place at the city's only free-speech site, Speakers' Corner.

Pink Dot's organizers said in a statement posted on their Facebook page Sunday that they will have to carry out checks to ensure that only Singapore citizens and permanent residents join the rally.

Making the announcement with "profound regret", the organizers said the police reminded them of the new rules ahead of this year's event, which is due to be held on July 1.

"In order to continue using Speakers' Corner, Pink Dot 2017 organizers have no choice but to adhere to this regulation, as organizers and foreigners caught flouting this rule are liable to be prosecuted," they said.

Violators face a fine not exceeding Sg$10,000 ($7,127) or a jail term of up to six months or both on conviction.

The new regulations also banned foreign companies from funding events held at the Speakers' Corner, including the Pink Dot rally.

Multinationals led by Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs had funded previous editions of the gay-pride rally as part of their equal-opportunity initiatives.

After last year's event, the government warned that it would "take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence such events".

Singapore has long taken a hard line on what it considers foreign interference in domestic politics and has often been criticized by human rights groups for clamping down on political freedoms.

Open support for gay rights has grown in recent years, aided by changing social norms among the younger generation and a large influx of tourists and expatriates.

However Singapore's top court in 2014 upheld a law dating back to British colonial rule that criminalises sex between men.