On September 15th, the ceremony to pass on the Human Rights Torch was held in Molard Square. Geneva is the ninth stop of the Human Rights Torch Relay. Today’s host was Dr. Charles Grace, the Vice President of the European chapter of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG) and the Secretary of an international multi-religious organisation. Another Vice President of CIPFG, former President of the Human Rights Committee of Geneva Parliament, Thomas Becy first read out the CIPFG’s declaration. The Mayor of Geneva and former President of Switzerland’s Green Party, M. Patrice Mugny, came to support the event.
A member of the Swiss National Council, M. Luc Recordon, said in his speech: “China has contributed numerous valuable things to the world, for example, Confuciusism, Laociusism, Lamaism, etc. China will not be able to deny the fact that the renaissance of past glory does not only depend on a strong economy but also on overall respect for human dignity. I sincerely hope this symbolic Human Rights Torch will throw some light for those who will receive the Olympic torch in Beijing in 2008, especially the Chinese authorities, thus marking this event as a turning point in China’s process of human rights improvement.”
The President of the Swiss Organ Transplant Association, M. Miller, was stunned to learn about the atrocities of organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners happening in China. Today he made a special trip from the capital Bern to attend the event and gave a speech. When interviewed by a reporter, he commented, “I consider organ trafficking a grave matter anywhere in the world. It damages the reputation of all doctors engaged in organ transplants. We will do everything within our power to prevent such things from happening.”
Members of the Swiss National Council, M. Freysinger, Mme. Ruey and Mme. Kleiner, members of the Great Council of the Canton of Geneva, M. Stauffer and M. Leyvraz, and several representatives of NGO were among the numerous speakers today.
The Human Rights Torch Relay theme performed by cellist Benda was warmly received. The Geneva Saxophone Quartet also put on a brilliant show.
At 3pm in the afternoon, Mayor M. Patrice Mugny lit up the torches in the hands of former Swiss athletes 86-time National Swimming Champion, Deano Arsa, who five times broke the world record for 50 metres freestyle, and World Skiing Champion Rosemary Morrino. Torches that symbolised human rights, freedom and peace in hands, they ran through downtown streets with the crowds enthusiastic participation. By the scenic Lake Leman they mounted an open car to head to the next stop of the Relay, the capital of the Olympics, Lausanne, accompanied by many keen spectators.
Returning to Geneva by night, they would hold a candlelight vigil in front of Palais des Nations where the United Nations Human Rights Council is headquartered. Subsequently, the torch will pass to France overnight. On September 16th, Paris will host the Torch.
The entire speech of M. Patrice Mugny on the 15th of September 2007 was as follows:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we gather here as freedom of belief can not be banned. It is my firm belief that freedom of belief is a right everyone on earth should enjoy, which is the reason why I support Falun Gong practitioners being persecuted in China. When we talk about the Beijing Olympics, we should not cover up the fact that the Chinese regime rejects Falun Gong practitioners in the same manner as it denies Christians.
In fact, I came to know about the worrying reality of torture in China from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture in March 2006. According to his report, two out of three torture victims in China are Falun Gong practitioners.
Amnesty International pointed out in last year’s report, Chinese government initiated “a campaign to publicly vilify Falun Gong to instigate hatred towards its practitioners, which encouraged violence against the practitioners.” European Parliament also condemned the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and the Tibetans.
According to Amnesty International, since the practice was banned in July 1999, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were illegally arrested. The government considered that they “threatened social and political stability in China.” Key Falun Gong practitioners indicted by the authorities were sentenced to jail while others were sent to mental hospitals. The majority were locked up in “labour camps”, a form of disciplinary centre, along with other inmates who do not require indictment, trial or any hope for a re-trail, where Falun Gong practitioners are routinely tortured, mistreated especially when they do not give up their beliefs.
In recent years, China’s economy developed rapidly. But what will it mean when the freedom of speech and belief that everyone should enjoy is threatened and persecuted?
Today, in the name of the right to freedom of belief that everyone should enjoy, I, along with you, carry over the Human Rights Torch, which was lit in Athens, passed Berlin, Munich and Prague, and will arrive in Paris on the 16th of September.
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