The official ceremony to kick off the Global Human Rights Torch Relay took place on Syntagma Square in front of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece, on the evening of August 9. Hosted by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), the Torch Relay calls out to boycott the Beijing Olympics in order to pressure the Chinese communist regime to respect human rights. The following is a selection of statements given by onlookers, recorded by Epoch Times reporters on the scene.
"I know the event is about human rights. I know what problems [there] are in China. It is a good thing [this event] and it helps. It will go around the world for one year. It's a good thing. I see the people here understand the Olympic spirit. It's a good thing," said Mihel Pitikakis, from Greece.
A Greek woman living in Paris said that the Torch Relay was a wonderful initiative, and that she knows about the situation in China: child labour, people thrown out of their homes, various persecutions. All governments should take a stand and condemn the violations in China, she said, and only then should the Olympics take place.
"It is important but it needs a better publicity. The event needs more images about the human rights violations. This event might have an effect, it is a very good thing," said Constantin Constantinescu, from Romania
"It's important because people need to find out about what is happening. It's up to the media that this event will have an impact," said Maria Manolis, from Greece.
A pair of Taiwanese girls said that they knew about the persecution of Falun Gong in China, and about the removal of organs. They believe this event can help to raise awareness on this subject and improve the situation in China.
"It's a very good thing. I just got here and saw the show. It's good," said Sam, from Greece.
"I saw the movies presented on the screen here so I know basically that it's about human rights. It is a good thing. I do not know if it will have an impact but it's good thing. It's interesting that the torch will be light up here," said Owen Hunt, from the U.S.A.
The reporter responded by reiterating Chinese dissident Pan Qing's message, that many people in China are saying "no" to Olympic Games, while instead wanting freedom.
Owen Hunt responded, "If that's true then this is a good thing. People in western countries know that China is not like the Chinese officials say, that is not all good there."
A pair of women from Greece said they believe that activism does have an impact and that the Olympic Games shouldn't take place under the current circumstances in China.
"This event is a good thing," said Tamar from Syria.
"I know what this event is all about and is a good thing. If Chinese peoples from China find out that peoples in the world sustain their rights then they will get some courage. If nobody speaks for them then Chinese peoples might feel sad. The torch will go around the world for one year and I think that many peoples will find out. This is only the beginning," said Erich from Switzerland.
"It is a good thing. They [people the participate at the event] put the human beings first and this is a good thing," said Emiliano from the U.S.A.
"This is a different torch and it must be heard. Television put the accent on the beautiful side of the Olympics but this is the sad part. This part also must be shown," said Yiannis from Greece.
Two Greek men said that they didn't know anything about Falun Gong and the Chinese communist regime's persecution of it prior to arriving at the square. There isn't much information available on the subject, they said.
"Human Rights ... is a good thing. Few peoples in China are doing well and on the most part are poor. This event is a good thing," said Papadiki Nikos, from Greece.