Protesters have broken through a barricade outside the Dorchester Hotel as they rally against its owner the Sultan of Brunei and his new LGBT laws, reports suggest.
Around 500 people turned out to take part in the protest in Park Lane, central
The Sultan decided to start whipping or stoning gay people to death from next week – when the strict new laws are introduced.
The gathering, led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, saw many of the protesters carrying placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out, as well as rainbow flags.
Two protesters outside the hotel wear colourful clothes and hair and hold a sign which reads: ‘Stoning has no place in the 21st Century’
As many as 500 people reportedly took part in the protest in Park Lane, central London, after the Sultan of Brunei announced changes in laws on LGBT rights last week
The rally was led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell (pictured centre), with many of the protesters carrying placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out, as well as rainbow flags
The five-star Dorchester Hotel is owned by the Sultan and there has been a growing movement against hotels owned by him
Placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out were waved alongside rainbow flags
Mr Tatchell said if the Sultan did not revoke the laws the British Government should sever all ties with the regime.
He added: ‘If the Sultan will not listen to reason and compassion we believe the British Government should sever all diplomatic, economic and military ties with the regime.
‘What is shameful is that our royal family puts royal ties before human rights.’
There were cries of ‘shame’ from the crowd when Mr Tatchell claimed the Royal Family were not going to sever ties with the regime.
The protest comes on the back of the growing movement against hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei – including the Dorchester – in response to the nation’s new Islamic criminal laws punishing gay sex by stoning offenders to death.
On Thursday a group of protesters stormed the Dorchester with a megaphone and called for it to be boycotted.
Canadian writer Jordan Tannahill, along with friends Andy Field, Crispin Lord and Nick Finegan, booked a table at the hotel at around 1pm before they began their protest.
But they were quickly escorted out by the hotel’s security staff.
Barriers had been put up around the front of the hotel today and an estimated 500 people lined the surrounding streets, chanting and holding up signs.
A cut out of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour says ‘Deny Brunei’ at the protest today
Piles of rainbow-coloured stones had been laid on the pavement.
Ahead of the demonstration, Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan.
In a statement today, the university said it shared the ‘international revulsion’ of the laws and that the decision to confer the honorary degree of civil law by diploma to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in 1993 would be reconsidered through its ‘established process’.
But it stressed no one had the right ‘summarily to rescind it’ and added: ‘We also believe in due process. Just as nobody has a right to confer an honorary degree, nobody has a right summarily to rescind it.
‘The decision to confer this degree 26 years ago was recommended by a committee and approved by council and by congregation at the time.
‘We will reconsider this decision through our established process in light of the information now available, as other British universities are doing.’
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry attended the march and made a speech this afternoon.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (pictured today)made a speech at the rally
Ms Thornberry told the crowd, ‘Until and unless the sultan of Brunei gets rid of these appalling laws he will continue to see demonstrations against him and the properties he owns including this hotel,’
Labour MP Tom Copley and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas were also expected to speak.
Organiser Benali Hamdache said: ‘The Sultan’s brutally homophobic and misogynistic new laws have no place in the 21st Century.
‘It’s time to show his tyranny is not welcome in London. We’re starting our protests outside the Dorchester, calling for a mass boycott of the Sultan owned luxury hotels.’
He added: ‘[It’s] clear people were really passionate about demonstrating their disgust for these homophobic laws. It’s time for the government to take action and the Sultan of Brunei to rethink.’
A man takes a selfie during the protest outside the Dorchester today, holding an LGBT Live Matter placard
A placard outside the five-star hotel says that singer ‘Carly Rae Jepsen wouldn’t stand 4 this!’
The protesters were reported to have broken through a barricade outside the hotel this afternoon
The Dorchester Hotel has lost a string of high profile bookings in the days following the law change.
Among the events that will be held in alternative venues were the TV Choice Awards, the English National Ballet and the Make A Wish Foundation.
According to the Thompson Reuters Foundation, travel agents, London’s transport network and finance houses were among a rising number of companies on Friday to cut ties with businesses owned by Brunei to protest over the Sultanate’s introduction of the death penalty for gay sex and adultery.
The tiny oil-rich nation already implements Sharia laws, with homosexuality punishable with up to ten years in prison.
But from the start of next month the government plans to amend the penal code to mean LGBT people and adulterers could be stoned to death, with thieves facing having hands or feet amputated.
Amnesty International has slammed the plans, describing the Islamic criminal laws for gay sex and theft as ‘vicious’.
Oxford University has said it will reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured)
Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes that included fines or jail for offences like pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.
Previously, homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. But the changes would allow whipping and stoning to death for Muslims found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape, said human rights groups.
The new penalty for theft is amputation of the right hand for a first offence and the left foot for a second offence.
The new penalties, which also apply to children, are in new sections under Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code and will come into effect April 3, Amnesty said in a statement.
The country delayed implementing the final two stages of changes after an international backlash in 2014 which included a boycott of the Beverley Hills Hotel, which is linked to Brunei’s government.
But now Brunei authorities plan to go ahead with both stages, said Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project.
Brunei’s sultan instituted the Sharia Penal Code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the tiny, oil-rich monarchy, which has long been known for conservative policies such as banning the public sale of liquor.
The Sultan is no stranger to controversy at home – the monarchy was deeply embarrassed by a family feud with his brother Jefri over the latter’s alleged embezzlement of $15 billion during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s.
Court battles and investigations revealed salacious details of Jefri’s un-Islamic jetset lifestyle, including claims of a high-priced harem of foreign women and a luxury yacht he owned called ‘Tits’.
Brunei first announced the measures in 2013 but implementation has been delayed as officials worked out the practical details and in the teeth of opposition by rights groups.
Amnesty labelled the penal code as a ‘deeply flawed piece of legislation’ with a range of provisions that violate human rights.
The legal changes were announced in a discreet notice on the attorney general’s website, the human rights group said.
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, said some of the potential offences ‘should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender’.
She added: ‘To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself.
‘Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations.
‘The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.’
There has been no vocal opposition to the law in Brunei, where Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah rules as head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in Brunei.
The Sultan, who has reigned since 1967, has previously said the Shariah Penal Code should be regarded as a form of ‘special guidance’ from God and would be ‘part of the great history’ of Brunei.
Under secular laws, Brunei already prescribes caning as a penalty for crimes including immigration offences, for which convicts can be flogged with a rattan cane.
Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said Brunei will become the only country in Southeast Asia to punish gay sex with death if it pushes through with the law.
He warned that implementation of the law ‘will quickly drive the country towards human rights pariah status in the eyes of foreign investors, tourists, and international agencies’.
Under a shift towards hardline Islamic law, Brunei in 2015 banned excessive Christmas celebrations for fear that Muslims could be led astray.
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a Manila-based human rights group, confirmed the implementation of the remaining changes were due to take place on April 3, citing government documents.
Manila-based OutRight Action International also confirmed Brunei was about to implement a new stage in its sharia laws.
Socially conservative attitudes prevail across Asia with Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei banning sexual relationships between men while Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people in recent years.
Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 nestled between two Malaysian states on Borneo island, is the first country in east Asia to adopt the criminal component of sharia at a national level.