Up to 20,000 Singaporeans gathered for the annual Pink Dot rally for LGBT+ rights over the weekend—but foreigners were barred from attending the festivities this year.
The annual rally is held at the historic Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park and normally attracts closer to 25,000 people but after recent changes to the country’s Public Order Act, only citizens and permanent residents are permitted to take part in political protests.
Speakers' Corner was barricaded and attendees had to show identification to gain access to the event.
The organisers made the announcement last month, saying they were “just as upset” as the public over the new rule and promised to live stream the event on social media.
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced the changes after last year's event, saying that the ban was designed to stop “foreign entities” meddling in domestic issues.
"For events like the Pink Dot, foreigners are not allowed to organise or speak at the events, or participate in demonstrations," a statement from the ministry read.
"These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves. LGBT issues are one such example."
There was still a strong turnout of locals at the event with one Singaporean attendee—Jinesh Lalwani—telling the BBC that the ban only encouraged more people to support for LGBT+ rights.
"It's galvanised locals to turn up. That's important because some believe foreign forces are behind the gay rights movement here. So this event shows there's actually strong Singaporean support," he said.
Same-sex sexual activity is technically illegal in Singapore, although the law is rarely enforced. The LGBT+ community is continuing to fight for equal rights and anti-discrimination protections.
Event spokesperson Paerin Choa said: "Even with this restricted space that limits Singapore's true propensity for love, we feel that we have taken yet another important step in achieving true equality for all.”