The Human Rights Olympic Torch was lit yesterday in Grafton Street before a run to the Chinese Embassy. The Torch has come to Ireland to highlight a campaign calling for countries to boycott the Olympics in Beijing China in 2008 because of human rights abuses.
An open-air concert was held in Grafton Street with an array of bands, a choir and speakers which included Patricia McKenna (Green Party), David Norris (Independent Senator), Joe O'Toole (Independent Senator), Simon Coveney TD (Fine Gael), Darragh O'Brien TD (Fianna Fail) and Labour Youth member Neil Ward.
The theme of the event was that China cannot host the Olympics unless it first changes it human rights practices.
Make a Stand
Independent Senator Joe O' Toole called on the Irish government to make a clear stand regarding human rights in China, he said "Communist China promised to improve the human rights situation when they were awarded the Olympics. Six years on, no change.
"They systematically carry out human rights atrocities. Let us not get carried away with the sports, let us instead pick up the torch of democracy.
"The government must clearly make a stand. They must show unity with the Chinese people"
"During the Olympics the world is looking at the shop window but there are sweat shops, labour camps and forced organ harvesting behind the window. I hope the public are not fooled."
Olympics Could Backfire on China
Psychiatrist Declan Lyons, co-spokesperson for the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG) who organised the event said, "What is happening in China today in regards to Falun Gong is reminiscent of what Nazi doctors did during the Holocaust," referring to the organ harvesting of living Falun Gong practitioners.
He said Canadian Lawyer David Matas and Former Canadian MP David Kilgour should be commended for their report highlighting the evil practice of harvesting of organs from live Falun Gong practitioners.
Dr. Lyons added that he understood why people in China did not make a stand, because if they did they too would be victimised.
He insisted that China should not be allowed to showcase itself in the same manner that Germany did during the 1936 Olympics.
Lyons said, "The Olympics could backfire on China. Small actions from a country like Ireland could make the difference."
Keep Human Rights on the Agenda
Trinity Senator David Norris said today's event was about keeping human rights high on Irelands agenda with Communist China.
He said, "I don't think there will be a boycott of the Olympics. This is about getting Burma, Falun Gong and Tibet on the agenda". He added that change was going to come from within China and that the communists were very worried about the millions of people who are quitting the Communist party and the escalating mass protests in the country, he wondered how long the communist party could keep a lid on the situation.
To spontaneous applause he said, "I commend the courage, decency, and selflessness of Falun Gong. Campaigning does work; look how we rescued Zhao Ming."
Mr Norris was involved in the rescue efforts of Trinity College student Zhao Ming. Trinity College student Zhao Ming spent twenty-two months in a labour camp in China for practicing Falun Gong before returning to Ireland after a high profile campaign for his release. Mr Zhao has since been campaigning for an end to the persecution and for the Irish government to condemn the persecution.
Give Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama Honorary Citizenship
Former Canadian MP David Kilgour, who also spoke at the event, said that Ireland should award the Dalai Lama and Burma Democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi honorary citizenship as this would protect them from victimisation in their native autocratic regimes.
Mr Kilgour. who co-wrote the report revealing harvesting of organs of live Falun Gong practitioners, was only in Ireland for a few hours to attend the rally. He said, "I hope the Irish government can warn their citizens on their web-sites about travelling to China for organ transplants. These organs are being forcefully taken from living Falun Gong practitioners."
He added, "Of the forty countries I have been to promoting this report the Irish government is one of our favourites we hope they take action."
Mr Kilgour originally presented his report to the Irish government in October 2006 and presented his findings to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. His co-author David Matas presented an updated report to the sub committee on human rights and to the department of Foreign Affairs in March 2007. The Irish government, who claims to take the report seriously, has since raised questions with the Chinese Communist regime.
Calls for Boycott gathering momentum
Olympic Torch Spokesperson Relay Patricia McKenna said she was impressed with the support the campaign for a boycott is gathering. She said recent calls from charities Trocaire and Goal for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics is adding weight to the campaign.
Trocaire have called for a boycott because of the role China is playing in Burma (renamed "Myanmar" by the military junta) and Goal expressed concern about China's position in Darfur.