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Crowds surge past Dorchester Hotel barriers in protest at Brunei LGBT laws

The University of Oxford earlier said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan.

Protesteers outside the front door of the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane (Joe Gammie/PA)
Protesteers outside the front door of the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane (Joe Gammie/PA)

Crowds surged through barriers outside the Dorchester Hotel and took their protest against Brunei’s anti-LGBT laws to its front doors.

More than 100 people, many bearing a mixture of rainbow flags, banners and placards, chanted “shame on you” outside the luxury hotel in Park Lane.

The protest comes on the back of the growing movement against hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei in response to the nation’s new Islamic criminal laws punishing gay sex by stoning offenders to death.

Signs called for homophobia to be stamped out while many people held placards saying “LGBT+ lives matter”.

Messages were scrawled in chalk on the pavement in front of the hotel alongside piles of rainbow-coloured stones, a reference to the punishment of stoning offenders to death.

One man climbed up and hung a rainbow flag from the building.

Police officers stood in front of the doors, blocking the noisy crowd from getting too close.

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Protesters outside the Dorcester Hotel (Sophie Hogan/PA)

The protest initially surrounded the front of the hotel, with barriers set up around the small car park.

But the crowds suddenly surged through the barriers and into the car park and up to the main doors.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the crowds that 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.

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Demonstrations outside the Dorcester (Sophie Hogan/PA)

“What is shameful is that our Royal Family puts royal ties before human rights.

“The Queen has said today that the Royal Family will not sever ties with the Sultan.”

There were cries of “shame” from the crowd when Mr Tatchell said the Royal Family were not going to cut ties.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the crowd that if the laws are not revoked Brunei should be “chucked out” of the Commonwealth.

She added: “Any hatred against anyone is hatred against all of us.

“Our fight is with the Sultan of Brunei. Our fight is with this terrible law. We say no.”

The new laws in the south-east Asian country came into effect on April 3 amid an international outcry.

Under the new laws, which apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death or whipped.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah instituted the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of around 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

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Peter Tatchell addresses protesters (Sophie Hogan/PA)

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years.

Ahead of the demonstration the University of Oxford said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan.

In a statement on Saturday, 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.”

Sir Elton John and George Clooney are among stars who have spoken out against the laws, demanding a boycott of the hotels owned by the Sultan, including The Dorchester Hotel and 45 Park Lane.

The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), through the Dorchester Collection, owns London’s The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane as well as Coworth Park in Berkshire.

Also in its portfolio of hotels, among the world’s most exclusive, are two of Hollywood’s best-known establishments, The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills.

PA

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