Irish Times Article: "Torch relay to highlight Chinese human rights failures"

IRELAND: The Global Human Rights Torch Relay will arrive in Dublin on Wednesday to raise awareness of continuing abuses of human rights in China during the run-up to next year's Olympic Games.

The relay, which began in Athens in August, is passing through more than 150 cities in 35 countries before ending in Hong Kong next August.

The Dublin run has been organised by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG). Its spokeswoman, former MEP Patricia McKenna, said that the Olympics must be used as an opportunity to force change in China.

"If Irish athletes, politicians or dignitaries go to Beijing to participate in or support the Olympic Games without saying or doing anything about China's failure to improve the situation with regard to human rights, it means we are condoning and giving tacit support to the ongoing violations taking place there," she said.

China has been criticised by Amnesty International for failing to improve its human rights situation, as it promised it would when it made its bid to host the games.

The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners has been singled out by human rights campaigners in recent years. Falun Gong, which involves body, mind and spiritual practices, has been banned in China since 1999 and its practitioners have been persecuted, sent to labour camps and tortured to death in some cases.

More recent revelations involve claims of widespread organ-harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.
The Dublin relay is being supported by politicians including Senator David Norris, Senator Joe O'Toole and Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney. The ceremony will begin on Grafton Street at 1pm and torches will be run from Grafton Street to the Chinese embassy in Ballsbridge at 3pm.

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