The “Human Rights Torch Relay”, organised by the CIPFG (Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China) to raise global awareness of human rights in China, arrived in the Czech Republic’s capital Prague on September the 6th, 2007 via Berlin and Munich. The Torch Relay has received widespread support from political circles in the Czech Republic, as well as non-governmental organisations and sports and entertainment circles. China’s human rights issues, especially the persecution of innocent Falun Gong practitioners, caught the extensive attention of the general public.
Incumbent Czech’s government officials, including the Vice Premier Mr. Martin Bursik, who also serves as the Minister of Environmental Protection, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Karel Schwarzenberg and Minister of Defence Vlasta Parkanova gave their support either by attending the rally in person or issuing a public letter. Former President Mr. Havel, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, wrote a letter to support the event. The former Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. Jan Ruml, who is also the incumbent chairman of the Czech’s Olympic Watch Committee, attended the activities held at Prague’s Old Square (the Staromestke namesti).
The rally was sponsored by the city government. Mr. Pavel Bem, Mayor of Prague, was one of the organisers.
At 4:30 in the afternoon, Mr. Bursik, Mr. Benda and Ms. Jacques took over the human rights torch at the “November 7th Velvet Revolution Monument” from a UK Falun Gong practitioner, Ms. Jiang Xinxia who was persecuted by the Chinese communist regime in China. They hand carried the torch, ran to the Old Square (Staromestke namesti) and passed it to a seven year old girl Chen Fadu. Chen’s father was persecuted to death because of practicing Falun Gong in China soon after she was born.
The “Velvet Revolution” refers the democratic revolution occurred in the former Czechoslovakia in November 1989 against the evil ruling of the Communist Party. During that period of time, approximately 100,000 people marched on the streets of Prague every day demanding the termination of the evil governance by the Communist Party. The revolution toppled Czechoslovakia’s communist regime and led to the first democratic election after forty years of Communist governance. The Communist Party lost the election. Mr. Havel, a famous writer who suffered Communist persecution, led the Civic Forum and won the presidency. As no large-scale violence was involved in the handover of political power, it went on as smooth as velvet and was later called the “Velvet Revolution”. During late 1980s and early 1990s when the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed one after another, no large-scale violent conflict ever erupted in all of these countries just like Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution”.
The incumbent Czech government was the 2nd democratic government elected by the Czech people after the collapse of the Communist regime. Similar to what had happened in the first democratic government, most high-level officials in the 2nd government were also once persecuted by the Communist Party. Many of them were forced to flee from home to evade the persecution. Therefore, they are fully aware of the severity of the Communist Party’s infringement of human rights. Holding the torch relay at the “November 7th Velvet Revolution Monument” had a special meaning.
In the English and Czech flyers distributed to the participants in the Old Square, President Havel’s remarks were quoted, “I support the Human Rights Torch Relay as I consider it is the hope of the world. China has tried to cover up its human rights infringement using gigantic capital investment and colossal preparation projects for the Olympics. The Chinese regime fails to materialise its promise of improving human rights in China. It is very essential to make China obey its promise now.”
Among the passers-by, many were tourists from China. Mrs. Wang, who came to attend the activity from Berlin, talked to a group of twenty Chinese tourists for about half an hour. She explained to the group the persecution truth of Falun Gong, the book “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party” and the party-quitting initiative signed on by twenty five million Chinese people. A man from the group did not say a word until he was about to turn away. He asked seemingly unwittingly, “How can I withdraw from the party?” Mrs. Wang replied, “Just find an alias and announce your decision on the web page of the Epoch Times. If you have no objection, I can file the withdrawal for you using alias ‘Ren Pingan’ (in Chinese, it is homonym of ‘people are safe’).” The man had walked away for several steps. He turned his head towards the practitioner, nodded gently as an affirmation and then left quickly. It is clear that he had the intention of withdrawing from the Chinese Communist Party but would not like to be seen by others in the same tourist group. Therefore, he expressed his intention in low profile so that it would not catch others’ attention.
Several Czech’s Olympic medallists and famous figures of the film-making circle also attended the rally. A concert, comprising about a dozen of bands, was held to support the appeal for China’s human rights. The concert started at noon and attracted many local Czechs and tourists from all over the world.
At 6 o’clock in the evening, the activities were about to end. Mr. Lukas Pollert, gold medallist of 1992 Barcelona Olympics and silver medallist of 1996 Atlanta Olympics in canoeing, held the torch and started running. Through a running relay by several Czech’s Olympic medallists, the human rights torch was carried through the Victims of Communism Memorial, Czech’s parliament, Prague Castle (the seat of the President) to China’s Embassy in Prague all the way. As dots of candlelight decorated the night, people mourned for the Falun Gong practitioners persecuted to death by the Chinese communist regime.
Upon the completion of the candlelight vigil, the torch was carried by several ultra-marathon athletes who would run for 230 kilometers throughout the night so that the torch would arrive in Czech’s 2nd largest city Burno on September the 6th. Mr. Milos Skorpil, a Czech’s legendary ultra-marathon runner, would cover the first thirty kilometers. Mr. Jiri Krejci, champion of the Czech’s 100-km ultra-marathon, would cove the last portion of the journey.
After Burno, the human rights torch would be carried to Slovakia and then to other countries in central and eastern Europe. According to Mr. Kevin Yang, spokesman of the CIPFG’s North American chapter, there have been 150 cities in 35 countries participating in the Human Rights Torch Relay. China’s human rights issues, especially the persecution that Falun Gong practitioners have been suffering will receive more extensive attentions from the international society.
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