MIAMI—Florida supporters of the Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR) held a forum in Miami to discuss in detail the various human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in and out of China.
The Forum was attended by many people who knew first-hand of the evils of communism: a Falun Gong practitioner who had been persecuted in China, several former Cuban political prisoners, and an Ethiopian Supreme Court Justice who was forced out of the country for criticizing the government.
The Human Rights Torch Relay
According the HRTR spokesperson Maureen Gamrecki, the Human Rights Torch was first lit in August 9, 2007 to illuminate the Chinese communist regime's worsening human rights violations and to press for change for the good of the Chinese people and all humanity.
Since then the Torch has traveled around the world, revealing the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) tyranny; to stop the human rights violations perpetrated by the CCP in China and all over the world; and to highlight the persecution of Falun Gong, the largest and most severely persecuted group in China today. Falun Gong practitioners have no rights, no voice, and not even the right to have lawyers represent them in arrested.
The Human Rights Torch Relay, which is hosting events in 40 countries across six continents, has a single, powerful message: "Crimes against humanity and the Olympics cannot coexist in China."
The Chinese regime was granted the honor of hosting the Olympic Games based on the regime's promise to improve its human rights record. Instead, repression has increased, as the CCP has used the excuse of the coming games to "cleanse" China of every group or individual that soiled the CCP's carefully crafted image of a modern, decent country and revealed it to be a brutal totalitarian dictatorship using the most violent and primitive methods to control its subjects.
The Human Rights Torch will be arriving in Miami on May 10, in an event including a torch lighting, speakers from various human rights groups, and musical acts.
Florida Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart attended the Forum, and Representatives Cliff Stearns, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent letters of support.
Representatives of the Human Rights Torch Relay and the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) spoke, explaining the purpose of the HRTR and describing some of the more heinous aspects of the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Also attending were several representatives of two groups from the Cuban exile community, the Cuban Liberty Council, and the Former Political Prisoners of Cuba. These gentlemen knew from personal experience what life under a communist regime is like: most of them had spent time in Cuban concentrations camps, and all were unable to return to their homeland while Castro's communist regime holds power.
Also speaking was Frehiywot Samuel, a former Supreme Court Justice in the African nation of Ethiopia, who was forced to flee Ethiopia for criticizing the government for killing nearly 200 people in the wake of the 2005 elections.
Persecuted Chinese Falun Gong practitioner Yanling Zhang described for the audience the suffering of herself and her family, all of whom were arrested and tortured by the CCP.
The final speaker, Dr. Sherwood Liu, described the CCP's system of labor camps, where political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, reformers, and rights advocates are imprisoned without trial, and are subjected to the most brutal tortures. It is these labor camps that Falun Gong practitioners are housed, awaiting a call for their organs.
The event opened with a brief introduction of the Human Rights Torch Relay, a series of events spanning six continents that are calling attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated by the CCP in and out of China. The Relay will be coming to Miami on May 10.
First to speak was the Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Congressman from Florida's 21st District. Rep. Diaz-Balart is of Cuban extraction and knows quite well the damage a communist regime can do to a nation.
Addressing the world's participation in the upcoming Beijing Olympics, in light of the Chinese regime's increased internal repression and the crackdown in Tibet, Rep Diaz-Balart said, "The world will long remember with embarrassment the holding of an Olympic Games in an oppressive totalitarian state like Communist China."
Rep. Diaz-Balart showed especial horror when reading about the CCP's practice of harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners for sale to transplant hospitals.
"It is my honor to be here today saying to the people of China, saying to the People of Tibet: We do not forget you; you are not alone."
Maureen Gamrecki, Vice-President for a large U.S. based international bank and a volunteer with the Human Rights Law Foundation, described the Human Rights Torch Relay project in detail.
"We believe that one of the main reasons China wanted the Olympics was as an excuse to persecute groups like Falun Gong, or human rights activists or dissidents of any sort," Ms. Gamrecki explained.
Ms. Gamrecki pointed out that China has at least 200 lawyers in jail just for defending clients the state wanted convicted. There is no due process for these people.
One of these lawyers is CIPFG member Gao Zhisheng. He was arrested for writing to the United States Congress, "As we approach the Beijing Olympics, I ask you to pay attention to the ongoing human rights disaster in China, ands seriously consider the extent to which the values of morality, justice, and humanity are undermined in China." Gao is still in prison, and his family is under constant surveillance and daily harassment.
Ms. Gamrecki told the audience that China holds millions of citizens in jails and labor camps; most are prisoners of conscience: clergymen who wouldn't renounce their faith, reformers, labor organizers, democracy or human rights advocates—anyone who dared speak up against the the CCP's abuses
More than half the illegally detained prisoners in China are Falun Gong practitioners, and two-thirds of the torture victims in China are Falun Gong practitioners (according to several reports, including one by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.)
The latest abuse which has come to light is the CCP's practice of organ harvesting, Ms. Gamrecki explained. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have had their organs forcibly removed and sold. This is a crime so horrible it is difficult to believe, but there is ample proof: doctors, ex-military personnel, spouses of doctors who performed these surgeries, have testified that they have seen and done these things. In the report by former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour and human rights Lawyer David Matas, there are recordings of doctors telling supposed "patients" that these organs are from young, healthy Falun Gong practitioners.
Remarks by Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart at the Miami HRTR Forum
Ms. Gamrecki also noted that the CCP has killed 80 million of its own people since coming to power in 1949—far more than Stalin or any other dictator.
"Why is the media turning their backs to this?" she asked. "Why is the media ignoring human rights abuses in Cuba? Why do we pretend communist regimes can be turned around?
When we granted the Chinese regime the Olympics, people said, 'The human rights abuses will stop. We will do it with dialogue.' It didn't happen. The rights abuses are getting worse. Everyone must step up. The Human Rights Torch Relay gives everyone a chance to step forward and participate."
Ms Gamrecki finished her presentation with the words of U.N. advisor and CIPFG member Charles Graves: holding the Olympic Games in communist-controlled China would be "a travesty of the Olympic spirit and a direct violation of the Olympic Charter."
Next on the podium were five members of the Former Political Prisoners of Cuba, men who had spent, between them nearly eight decades in Castro's prisons for resisting communist totalitarianism.
Following these Cuban freedom fighters, was Paul Alcázar, one of the directors the Cuban Liberty Council, a non-profit organization with the goal of assisting the efforts of human rights and opposition groups in Cuba, and to oppose the continuance of the totalitarian regime that has impoverished and enslaved the Cuban people.
Mr. Alcázar explained that though many oppressive regimes around the world called themselves different names or showed different faces to the world, they were essentially all part of international communism; and that these regimes kept changing their images without changing their oppressive natures. Yet somehow, decent governments around the world were taken in, and supported these oppressive regimes through trade
Mr. Alcázar described how the media would pay scant attention to gross human rights violations, and get back to business as usual as soon as possible, forgetting the ongoing horrors.
"It is up to people like us to make sure that that doesn't happen any more," he told the audience. "Our strategy should be that of cooperation, and constant denunciation of the atrocities and violations of human rights that these regimes commit around the world."
Letters of Support
The Forum received notes and letters of support form many people and organizations, including from Congresspersons Cliff Stearns, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ms. Gloria Max, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties, wrote:
Because we are Jews, we are obligated to speak out forcefully and vigorously against China's well-documented human rights violations—in the areas of workers' rights, freedom of speech and the press, repression in Tibet, and support of the genocide in Darfur.
The Global Human Rights Torch Relay Campaign will give us an opportunity to focus the attention of the world on China, especially in light of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, and to use our influence to effect changes in the Chinese regime.
Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns sent the following statement of support:
Throughout my tenure, I have focused on China's dismal record on human rights; that is one reason I opposed granting that nation Normalized Trade Relations. In addition, I recently voted to condemn China's actions in Tibet. Under the circumstances I hope that President Bush chooses not to attend the opening of the Olympics.
Rabbi Gary G. Perras of Temple Israel in Winter Springs, Florida, wrote:
What troubles me is that the democracies of the free world would honor China by permitting them to host the Olympics. And it is precisely the democratic countries that we can influence as private citizens to take those steps which would not reward China or any other country for maintaining a cruel regime against its own citizens.
The Torch Is Coming to Miami
The Human Rights Torch will arrive in Miami on Saturday, May 10. The day's events will begin with a torch-lighting ceremony at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, after which the torch will be carried by a series of runners to the Torch of Freedom in Miami's Bayfront Park, where it will be greeted with music, speeches and information about the CCP's human rights violations inside and outside China, and the efforts that individuals can make to improve the plight of the various victims of oppression.
The events are free of charge and open to the public. Please visit the Human Rights Torch Relay site frequently for updated information.