KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human rights campaigners urged Singapore to lift a ban on foreigners taking part in the city-state's gay pride rally, an annual event that has drawn tens of thousands of supporters in recent years.
Organisers of the Pink Dot rally said on Sunday only Singaporean citizens and permanent residents are allowed at this year's event after the government tightened rules on foreign firms and nationals participating in public gatherings.
The organisers said the announcement was made with "profound regret", but added that they would livestream the rally, to be held on July 1 this year, through social media for those who cannot attend.
"Pink Dot 2017 organisers have no choice but to adhere to this regulation, as organisers and foreigners caught flouting this rule are liable to be prosecuted," the organisers said.
The rally has been held since 2009 under conservative Singapore's stringent public assembly laws at the Speakers' Corner, an area near downtown Singapore for demonstrations, performances and exhibitions.
Pink Dot has attracted a large crowd in recent years, although the Southeast Asian nation remains deeply divided over issues of homosexuality.
Human Rights Watch said the restriction was discriminatory and violates the fundamental right to peaceful public assembly.
"Nationality shouldn't matter when it comes to being able to attend a rally," the rights group's Asia deputy director Phil Robertson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
"Singapore should immediately lift this rights-abusing restriction and let everyone who wants to attend the Pink Dot Singapore do so."
Under Singapore law, sex between men is punishable by up to two years in jail, though prosecutions are rare.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said previously the country was not ready for same-sex marriage.
Singapore last year said foreign firms would no longer be allowed to sponsor or participate in the rally, after it received a record nine corporate sponsors including Twitter, Google and Facebook.
The government later said foreign companies and individuals need a permit to sponsor or take part in certain events under new rules, in an amendment that restricts foreign support for the Pink Dot rally.
(Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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