GENEVA—On the afternoon of September 15, 2007, in Molard Square downtown Geneva, two Swiss men dressed in traditional costumes and playing Alphorns, the Swiss national instrument, greeted the arrival of the Human Rights Torch at opening ceremonies in Geneva.
Geneva is the ninth stop on the Human Rights Torch Relay. Dr. Charles Graves, Vice President of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG) and Secretary of Interfaith International, hosted this ceremony. Mr. Thomas Büchi, another Vice President of CIPFG and former Chair of the Grand Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, read a statement on behalf of the CIPFG.
Mr. Patrice Mugny, Mayor of Geneva and former Chair of the Swiss Green Party, attended the ceremony to show his support. In his speech, he said, "I deeply adhere to freedom of belief, which every man and woman on this planet should possess. This is why I wanted to show my solidarity with the Falun Gong members who are today victims of repression in China. The perspective of the Beijing Olympic Games must not conceal this reality which means that Falun Gong adherents, like members of Christian groups not recognized by the State, are in the 'bad books' of the Chinese authorities."
Mayor Mugny is very concerned about human rights issues in China. He is also a member of the CIPFG in Europe. He called the Torch Relay a very significant event for the city of Geneva because it tells the world that the city cares about human rights. He told the audience that he doesn't consider the Torch Relay to be something against China but rather a call for the Chinese regime to respect human rights and fulfill its promises when it became a host of the Olympics.
The audience hummed with anticipation as the torch, on its way from Slovakia, approached the ceremony site in Geneva. The torch carrier landed in Geneva after a flight from Slovakia and ran towards Molard Square. The runner came into view, approached the stage, mounted it, and to the solemn strains of the Human Rights Torch theme song, handed the torch to Mayor Mugny.
Mr. Luc Recordon, Member of the Swiss National Assembly, spoke at the ceremony. He said China has given the world many values including Confucianism, Taoism, and Tantrism. China, if it wants to resume previous glories, must respect human rights, not just a strong economy. Mr. Recordon said he hoped this symbolic Torch Relay could inspire those who would be welcoming the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, especially the government, to make the Olympic Games a turning point for improving China's human rights.
Mr. Conrad Müller, Chair of the Swiss National Foundation for Organ Donation and Transplantation, made a special trip from Nepal to attend the ceremony. He said that he considers trafficking in human organs to be a serious crime anywhere it happens, and that participating in the illegal organ trade would bring shame to the medical academy, especially to doctors who work with organ transplantation. Mr. Müller said his organization would do everything possible to stop organ harvesting from happening.
Other speakers included three members of the Swiss National Assembly, Mr. Oskar Freysinger, Ms. Ruth Grenner (letter), and Ms Francine-John-Calame (letter), Mr. Eric Stauffer and Mr. Eric Leyvraz from the Grand Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Christian Benda, a renowned cellist in Switzerland, performed the Human Rights Torch theme song, which received a warm welcome from the audience. The Geneva Saxophone Quartet gave an astonishing performance as well.
At 3 p.m., Mayor Mugny lit the Human Rights Torch in the hands of two Swiss athletes—renowned swimmer Mr. Dano Halsall, who won 86 national championships and broke the 50-meter swimming world record five times, and Ms. Lise Marie Morerod, who once won the World Cup Championship in Skiing. They ran through the city holding the Torch, WHICH symbolizes human rights, freedom and peace. They got on a car when they reached Lake Geneva and headed to the next stop of the Relay—Lausanne, Switzerland, home of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee.
They returned to Geneva the same night and joined a candlelight vigil in front of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Torch continued on its way to France, arriving in Paris on September 16, 2006.