Saturday, April 5, 2008

Global Human RIghts Torch Relay Cont.

Standing in Union Square in the sunshine seemed an incongruous place to be listening to a young Chinese woman give a harrowing account of her torture in a Chinese prison.

But it was the most moving account of all the speeches today at the Global Human Rights Torch rally.

She had been imprisoned and tortured three times for her practice of Falun Gong, a form of spiritual meditation. You could feel the tension in the packed square as she recalled in tears the 'physical, mental and spiritual' torture she had endured. This included electric burns, slave labour of packing chopsticks into paper wrappers and knitting sweaters, and sleep deprivation.

There were more than 100 labour camps, she said.

A young couple listening commented: 'It made you understand. It brings out the seriousness of the situation,' said the girl.

'It's really raw. It really brings it to you,' said the guy.

A Canadian human rights lawyer who has specialised in the organs for transplant horror of Falun Gong spoke. He explained that by 1999 there were more people practicing Falun Gong than were members of the Chinese Communist Party. So the Falun Gong were threatened. If they didn't abandon their beliefs, they were tortured. When that didn't stop them, they disappeared. Their organs were taken while they were still alive in what has become a $1 billion business in harvesting and selling organs for transplant to foreigners.

But whilst it is too late to stop China having the Games, he said, it is 'not too late to make China regret that they ever won the Olympic bid.'

Tatiana, a dialysis patient in a wheelchair, spoke up for the victims of the organ transplants. She spoke directly to China and said that pictures of their atrocities and the acts themselves 'would be remembered for ever.'

A Tibetan man, imprisoned in China for five years, said the killings of Falun Gong were 'homicide.' 'That's more than human rights abuse,' he said. He reiterated that as one of the Tibetan people 'we have nothing against the Chinese people...the athletes...the problem we have is with the Maoist terrorist regime of China.'

He refuted Chinese allegations that the Dalai Lama had organised the March protest by the monks in Tibet. The internet firewall erected by China was so strong that it would be impossible to organize a protest of that magnitude from outside of the country, he said. But if it had happened, 'shame on you China, you fail to protect your people,' he taunted.

He warned that the world needed to stop the Olympic Torch going through Tibet, where a symbolic route to Mount Everest was planned, because China was plotting a crackdown on the Tibetan people. 'It would be a 'disaster,' he said.

Former Olympic winners spoke. The 200 metres Bronze Medallist of 1968, John Carlos, who made history with his 'Black Power' salute on the winners' podium, called for a boycott of the Opening Ceremony.

He said, 'The people of China deserve to have the Olympic Games in their nation. The government of China do not.'

But he thought that to boycott the Games themselves would disenchant young athletes.

Referring to a host nation's prestige, he said the 'biggest part' of the Games was the opening ceremony. He praised the President of France for his intention to boycott the ceremony and hoped more nations would follow his lead.

An Olympic swimmer who won the Silver Medal in '68 and Bronze in '72, whilst supporting the 'dream' of the human rights campaigners, pleaded for understanding of the athletes. 'It is their dream as well' she said.

A freelance journalist working on behalf of the underground Roman Catholic Church spoke of the 'hell' of the arrests, abductions, endless interrogations, imprisonments, slave labour and death camps endured by Christians.

She had a message for 'Mao the Monster' and his representatives, now responsible for the deaths of 77 million Chinese:

'May you rot in hell!'

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, sent her support with a message: 'I believe the IOC made a mistake in awarding the Olympic Games to China.' Other contributors were the President of the Vietnamese Association in San Francisco and Women For Peace who spoke of the sweatshop abuses perpetuated for big companies, singling out Walmart, Nike and Microsoft.

Then, to great jubilation, the Torch arrived in the square to be officially received by Supervisor Chris Daly. Next, led by John Carlos, a large, jubilant group of protesters and 6k walkers and runners set off. They went down through the streets to the Embarcadero, along the Bay front and back to the square where a closing ceremony was held.

I spoke at random to a lady on the pavement as the parade passed.

'I'm not entirely in favour,' she said. 'I think there are better ways to show people what you think.'

However, a young lad across the street of Chinese background, was in favour. He said people 'need more freedom.'

A Vietnamese lady from San Jose who was part of the protests walked back to Union Square with me after following the marchers and runners for a short way. She said she would be back on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Tibetan Freedom Torch and the Olympic Torch. As will everyone else plus more!

Of course the big request of the protesters to San Francisco is that Mayor Gavin Newsom will adopt the Board of Supervisors resolution that he receive the Olympic Torch with 'alarm and protest.'

I walked by the architect of the resolution, Chris Daly, in the parade as he carried 'Daly Junior' happily on his shoulders. 'Will Mayor Newsom receive the Torch with alarm and protest?' I asked.

He guffawed for a few paces.

'He received my resolution with alarm and protest!!!' he said.

Click for pics. Click to enlarge. For earlier report and pics see

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