United Kingdom: Human Rights Torch Arrived in London

On the afternoon of 25th October 2007, the Global Human Rights Torch Relay arrived in London. Vice-President of EU Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott chaired a press conference at the Foreign Press Club and gave a speech on Trafalgar Square along with other politicians and representatives from human rights organizations. This was the last stop of the Human Rights Torch Relay in Europe before it passed on to Australia.

The Human Rights Torch Relay was initiated by CIPFG (Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong) with the theme of ‘The Olympics and Crimes against Humanity Cannot Coexist in China’. The torch was lit in the cradle of the Olympics movement in Greece on the 9th of August and has been passed to thirty cities in seventeen European countries. London, the host city of two Olympic Games (1908 and 1948), will host the 2012 summer Olympics for the third time and is also where the headquarters of many international human rights organisations are, such as Amnesty International and Free Tibet. The Human Rights Torch relay has a special significance for this international financial centre.

Press Conference

At 3pm on the 25th, Vice-President of the EU Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott called a press conference at the Foreign Press Club. In his speech, he said: ‘The Human Rights Torch makes people think: in China how many people have been imprisoned and tortured and lost their lives because of their belief? For example, from 1999 till now, over 3,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured to death. We know their names; we know when they were killed and by who. So the Human Rights Torch is to remind people that in the last few years, genocide has been happening in China.”

Press conference in the Foreign Press Club

Former British Olympian and General Secretary of the British Olympic Committee John Bicourt and former Olympic swimmer Ghefari Dulapandan also made speeches. Deputy Chairman of the London Assembly Brian Coleman and Lord Hylton also took part in the press conference.

People’s Support

At 4pm, the ceremony of the Human Rights Torch relay was held at the northern terrace of Trafalgar Square. Hundreds of supporters throughout the UK took part in the ceremony and the relay. They displayed banners saying ‘No Human Rights, No Olympics’ and ‘Support the Chinese People to have the Olympics without the Communist Party’. Representatives and members of the Democratic Front in China, Free Tibet, the Burmese Campaign and other human rights organisations also took part in the ceremony.

Before the ceremony, artists and people’s representatives gave performances and made speeches. Well-known flute player William Bennett played a flute solo, playwright Tinch Minter made a speech and the band Lion-Hearted sung three songs.

The ceremony attracted many people. When they knew this event was for a human rights situation in China, they signed their name on the petition. Some people bought T-shirts and caps with the logo of Human Rights Torch Relay. Some Londoners said, as the residents of the host city of 2012 Olympics, they really hoped that Chinese people could live the same democratic and free life as they do and hoped their support could encourage the Chinese people’s fight for Human Rights.

Politicians made Speeches

After the press conference, politicians joined the ceremonies and made speeches to support the Human Rights Torch Relay.

Vice-President of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott said, ‘It was not right that they can carry on with Human rights abuses and the Olympics should carry on as though nothing is happening. We are here today campaigning to say there must be changes in China before Olympic Games can continue next year, we as members of the European Parliament, members of British parliament.’

A crowd gathered around the event in Trafalgar Square

Vice-Chairman of the Greater London Assembly Brian Coleman said ‘Here on the streets of London, we are protesting and calling on Londoners to boycott the Beijing Olympics next year. It is not acceptable that the Olympics games are being held in a city which allows its citizens to be deported to labour camps, allows harvesting of human organs and does not allow religious freedom. When the Olympics come to London in 2012, we will show the Chinese how to hold an open and tolerant Olympics. I call upon the Mayor of London not to go to Beijing next year. I call on all the politicians who are invited on the expensive free trip to Beijing next year to send their tickets back to the Chinese Embassy with notice that they will only go to China when it becomes an open, democratic and free society.’

Lord Hylton said “People need to speak out for the religious freedom in China, including Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Falun Gong practitioners; British people enjoy these in this country, why shouldn’t the Chinese people also have it”?

“What is waiting for the Chinese people is victory”

Former Olympic swimmer Ghefari Dulapandan made a speech on behalf of British athletes, he encouraged Chinese people and quoted from Mahatma Ghandi: ‘First, they ignore you. Second, they laugh at you. Third, they fight you. Finally, you win.’ He said Chinese people were in the 3rd stage and their next step was victory.

Another British athlete John Bicourt said ‘The Olympic games is meant to be held in a spirit of friendship, cooperation, and ideals of sportsmanship, harmony and dignity for human beings. What is happening in China is completely incompatible with the Olympic principles. What is happening there is a complete disregard of the Olympic charter’.

Representatives from The Democratic Front for China UK, the Burma Campaign and Free Tibet also made speeches to support Chinese people’s fight for human rights.

The lighting of the Torch

After the speeches, a girl in white brought the Human Rights Torch to the rally. The politicians lit up the torches in four people’s hand who dressed in folk costumes representing the four parts of the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which symbolised the Human Rights Torch passed to all parts of the UK.

Edward McMillan-Scott lights the torch for people in traditional dress

Then, three girls in white let go of the white balloons and the European ‘Coming for You’ choir started to sing the theme song of the Human Rights Torch Relay. At this point the ceremony came to its climax.

After the ceremony, the relay started. The relay group, under the guide of the police, walked through the main streets of central London, St. Martin Square, Leicester Square, Charing Cross, and Oxford Street arriving at the Chinese Embassy. A candle light vigil was held there.

Vigil at the Chinese Embassy

The Human Right Torch was lit in Athens Greece on the 9th of August and passed through seventeen European countries, including Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Ireland. London was the last stop in Europe and the torch relay arrived in Australia on 27th October..

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