SINGAPORE - Thousands thronged Hong Lim Park on Saturday (July 1) as Singapore held its ninth lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rally Pink Dot.
For the first time, barricades lined the park with seven security checkpoints set up at its perimeter. This was so organisers could comply with new rules prohibiting foreigners from taking part in the event.
This follows an amendment to the Public Order Act last October. With effect from November last year, organisers of Speakers' Corner events "must ensure that only citizens of Singapore or permanent residents of Singapore participate in the assembly or procession".
Queues snaked around the park on Saturday as Singaporeans and permanent residents waited to get in to the Speakers' Corner.
At the entry points, they produced their pink or blue ICs and opened their bags for a security check.
Retiree Loh Kwek Leong, 63, who was in the queue with his wife, daughter, and his daughter's boyfriend, said he thought the LGBT cause was a worthy one.
The former land surveyor, who is attending his fourth Pink Dot, said: "One day these people will be given the freedom to love and marry someone of the same sex. And when my grandkids look back on this, I want them to see their grandfather was on the right side of history."
More than 60 security personnel and auxiliary police officers were hired to check the identity cards and bags of attendees.
This was thrice the number of security hired last year and cost organisers four times as much, said Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa.
The first time Pink Dot hired security officers was in 2014, after the LGBT event saw public opposition from some groups and there were worries about unruly behaviour.
Another change in this year's Pink Dot was the sponsors.
Last year, organisers faced a setback as the Government clarified that events at the Speakers' Corner cannot be backed by foreign dollars. Then, Pink Dot had 18 sponsors but only five were local. The rest were multinational companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Barclays.
Since then, local firms have stepped up, with 120 of them sponsoring more than $240,000 - exceeding the organisers' target of $150,000 from 100 companies.
At a press conference before the event on Saturday, Mr Choa said he hoped citizens will also attend the event in droves "despite barriers, despite having to show ICs" and send a message that support for the LGBT community is not a foreign value.
Ten foreign companies including Google, Facebook and Apple had last month written to the authorities asking for permission to support Pink Dot.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had said: "The Government has made clear its position on this matter. We would like to reiterate that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence events that relate to domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones.
"These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide. This restriction applies, for example, to both events which are organised to support the LGBT cause, as well as to events which are organised to oppose that cause."