It has been three months since the beginning of the Human Rights Torch Relay, initiated by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG). During this time it has travelled to over 20 countries in Europe, and in Australia through many cities in the states of New South Wales and Queensland. At 7:30 p.m. on November 16th, 2007, the Torch Relay reached the cultural capital of Australia: Melbourne, Victoria.
|Aboriginal elder Annette Xiberas of the Wurunjeri tribe|
|President of the National Civic Council and delegation leader for the CIPFG, Victorian Branch, Peter Westmore|
|Melbourne Democrat Party candidate Tim Wright|
|Australian Torch Relay ambassador Jan Becker announces the beginning of its journey through 50 cities in Victoria|
On the evening of the 16th, on the outdoor stage of Federation Square in Melbourne's city centre, a magnificent welcome ceremony was held for the Human Rights Torch Relay. On the morning of November 17th at 11a.m., the torch relay in Victoria was officially started on the main streets of Melbourne's city center. Representatives from the Melbourne Alliance of the Chinese Democratic Movement, along with members of the Polish, Sudanese and Vietnamese communities participated in the parade.
During the parade, more than 10 banners were prominently displayed to convey a clear message, and they attracted the attention of many bystanders. On the banners were phrases such as, "We support the Chinese people to hold an Olympics without the Chinese Communist Regime", "The Olympics and Crimes Against Humanity Cannot Coexist", "No Human Rights, No Olympics", and "Stop the Organ Harvesting from Living Falun Gong Practitioners."
A rally was held after the parade at Queen Victoria Park. In the two weeks to follow, the Human Rights Torch will pass through more than 50 regions of Victoria.
At the Torch Relay Ceremony on November 16th, leaders and representatives from many community groups addressed the audience.
Aboriginal Elder: "The Human Rights Torch brings honor to this land."
Aboriginal elder Annette Xiberas of the Wurunjeri tribe addressed the audience with her daughter in her arms. She welcomed the Human Rights Torch to Melbourne, and said that the torch brings honor to the land. She said, "If there are still people living in pain in China, the Olympic Games should not be held there. The Human Rights Torch Relay has passed the message of human rights and justice all over the world. Today. I stand here with my daughter and we hope the Human Rights Torch will light a new beginning, so we will not need to worry about whether future generations will be able to enjoy the rights of equality and freedom."
President of the National Civic Council: "We have the obligation to stand in battle with those who are under persecution"
President of the National Civic Council and delegation leader for the CIPFG, Victorian Branch Peter Westmore is a firm advocate for human rights. He has dedicated his life's work to building a moral society. Mr Westmore said, "I am honored to be here today, to join this call for human rights. Not only honored, but it is our obligation to stand in battle with those people who are under persecution."
"In China, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are imprisoned today. Their organs are being harvested live and sold to people, including many people from overseas who need organ transplants. If you still don't understand the situation of human rights violations in China, you only need to download a report from the website of David Kilgour, to realize how the Chinese Communists are persecuting Falun Gong." He then provided the audience with the website address to download the report.
With regard to the announcement made by the Chinese Communist regime on November 8th this year, "Athletes and tourists who hold religious beliefs will be allowed to bring religious items for personal use through customs. This policy does not apply to the Falun Gong group...", Mr Westmore said it is only under international pressure that the CCP is allowing believers of other religions to bring religious items into China, as these were originally forbidden. However the persecution of Falun Gong continues, and they continue to imprison Falun Gong practitioners--this has not changed one bit. Mr Westmore also said that if China does not improve its human rights situation, it is not qualified to hold the Olympic Games.
Former Olympian says that to hold the Olympics in Beijing is to tarnish the Olympic Spirit
The Australian Ambassador for the relay is Ms. Jan Becker, who was a swimmer on the Australian team in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In her speech, Ms. Becker said, "In 2001, I once spoke of human rights issues in China with the International Olympic Committee. They promised me that China will definitely improve. However, seven years have passed, and the Chinese Communists have not improved, but they have committed the most severe persecution and brutality ever in the history of mankind. As a former Olympian, I feel ashamed that the Olympics will be held in a country such as this. "
Widow of a renowned race driver says our apathy amounts to support for the tyrannical regime
Also at the event was Ms. Bev Brock, widow of the late Peter Brock, a renowned race driver. Following the tragic accident of her late husband, she became a media focus and in the eyes of many, a symbol of courage and dignity.
Ms. Brock said, "I care about them, which is why I have come here. As the Olympics is set to be held in Beijing, Beijing has become the focal point of the world. But what do we see that is happening? Persecution of Falun Gong, suppression against the Tibetans, and the bloody events in Darfur and Burma. If we are apathetic toward their situation, it would be the same as supporting this brutal regime." She also said, "Perhaps as one person, you feel you have very little power, and cannot do much. But I am telling you, we can do it! Tell every person around you, and encourage them. Although to many people, it is too painful to face the disaster that is now taking place in China, because of this pain, they have chosen to shy away, but we must awaken them!"
Democrat Party candidate, "The Australian government should not be silent"
Melbourne's Democrat Party candidate Tim Wright said, "In China, Falun Gong practitioners are being killed every day. Their organs are harvested live and being sold on the black market. We feel outraged, and the thing that makes me particularly angry is the silence of the Australian government toward these issues. We need a strong and loud voice to express our desire for human rights, democracy and freedom."
Chairman of the Darfur Australia Network, Mr Alpha Lisimba, President of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front Mr Nweni Tun, former Chinese national basketball team member Kai Chen, and Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of Melbourne Hilton Deakin were also among the many people who spoke at the Torch Reception Ceremony.
At the torch lighting event on November 17th, government officials spoke in support of the Human Rights Torch Relay.
Greens Party Councilor from the City of Maribyrnong Janet Rice said, "Today, it is my honor to be a torch bearer in the Human Rights Torch Relay parade. In fact, all of us are bearers for the Human Rights Torch relay. Together, we are sending a message to the world: In China, innocent people are suffering, people are being tortured and imprisoned, and we should help them."
She said, "Today we are making history. As the Human Rights Torch is passed around the world, we are applying more pressure on the Chinese Communist regime. We know many people have certain concerns in dealing with the Chinese Communists. Politicians are worried about damaging our trade relations, athletes are afraid that their sponsors will be affected. We must let them understand - no! Some things are more important. As human beings, our fundamental humanity and human rights are more important to these material gains."
Dr Con Dean, representative of the Vietnamese community in Melbourne, said the Chinese Communist regime is very similar to the Vietnamese Communists. They persecute various beliefs, and people do not have fundamental human rights in either country. He considers that the Human Rights Torch activity will not only help Chinese people, but also the Vietnamese people, in helping them to conquer their fear and find freedom.
A Polish community representative lived under communist rule for 37 years. She said, "I know what it is like to live in a communist country, it is filled with fear and despair. I am an athlete. I think the Olympics should only be held in democratic countries, and that we cannot go on without paying attention to human rights. But many people have not realised this. For example, as our parade proceeded today, the interest of many people were the Christmas decorations in the shop windows. They were only thinking about buying their children some cheap clothes, and toys that were made in China as presents. They have been brainwashed, and are apathetic toward the human rights abuses happening in China. I am proud of the conscience and courage which has been brought about by the Human Rights Torch activity."
Former Chinese basketball team member Kai Chen, Vice President of the Federation for a Democratic China Liang Youcan, and Burmese community representative NweNi Tun also delivered speeches in welcoming the Human Rights Torch to Melbourne.
The Global Human Rights Torch Relay, which was initiated by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), started off in Athens, Greece on the 9th of August. It has since been making its way through over 100 cities in more than 30 countries throughout Europe, America and Asia. Thousands of MPs, lawyers and human rights advocates are taking part in the campaign. The Torch Relay, which will run for one year, is aimed at calling attention to the human rights issues in China, and putting a stop to the persecution of Falun Gong and other groups in China. The Human Rights Torch will be relayed through Victoria for two weeks. As the relay progresses, more and more people around the world have come to understand the current human rights disaster in China and are condemning the brutality of the Chinese Communist Regime.
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