MIAMI—When the Human Rights Torch arrived in Miami on May 10, it had already traveled thousands of miles across six continents; yet to the groups that supported it, this was only the first step in a long and very important journey, towards a world where people were free to think, pray, speak and live without fear of torture and death.
The Human Rights Torch came to the Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami, on a scorching May afternoon, welcomed by crowds of human rights supporters who braved the blazing sun to join in supporting human rights for the victims of the Chinese communist regime.
Arriving in a stately procession led by young ladies dressed as Greek goddesses and flanked by representatives of groups trying to end oppression in nations around the world, the torch was accepted by Florida State Representative Yolly Roberson, who told the audience, "The entire Florida Legislature stands with me today to fight human rights abuses."
The torch was lit in Athens, Greece on August 9 of last year, with the theme that "The Olympics and Crimes Against Humanity Cannot Coexist in China" and has been to Europe, Australasia, Africa, South America, and much of North America.
While the Olympic Torch is now in the hands of the Chinese regime which is best known for "rampant political oppression, mass arrests, executions, forced abortions, forced organ harvesting, and religious persecution," according to CIPFG representative and event steering committee member Louise Rothman, the Human Rights Torch is instead, "a symbol of hope to all the victims of this regime whose voices cannot be freely heard."
"When the International Olympic Committee awarded China the honor of hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics, it was with the provision that China improve its horrific human rights conditions ahead of the Games," said Ms. Rothman.
"Since China was awarded the games, reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the United Nations, and independent investigators have stated that the Chinese government has intensified its human rights abuses," Ms. Rothman declared.
The event was attended by many human rights advocacy groups, including Voice of the Martyrs, a group focused on the persecution of Christians (in China, Christians are not allowed to pray outside of communist-controlled churches which only preach from the communist-edited version of the Bible); Save Darfur, Save Burma, and Save Tibet groups.
Several Cuban groups including Cuba Libre and the Cuban Liberty Council also attended and addressed the issue of CCP oppression.
Miami Human Rights Torch relay
Address by Rep. Roberson to the Miami Human Rights Torch Event
Also speaking were Freyhiwot Samuel, a former Ethiopian Supreme Court Justice forced to flee his home due to government persecution; the Vietnamese-American Association; Amnesty International, and the Venezuelan Business Club (Venezuela recently fell into the grip of a pro-communist "president").
Dr. Regina Finnegan spoke for Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting; and Yanling Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner who survived CCP persecution, describer her ordeal.
Interspersed with the speakers were musicians who had written songs specifically to support the event and the fight against the Chinese regime's human rights abuses. The musicians included Drew Parker, Johnathon Lloyd Malcolm, Michael Ibarra, Origen, My Amends, It Came to This, and Gaia.
Speakers described the conditions in communist China, where journalists, human rights advocates, Christians, Muslims, Falun Gong practitioners, reformers, and other groups are treated as enemies of the state. Police imprison these "dissident" classes, without trial, for up to three years, in forced-labor camps.
As Dr. Regina Finnegan of Doctors Against forced Organ Harvesting noted, Falun Gong practitioners in these labor camps are treated as a living organ banks to supply the Chinese regime's newly expanded organ transplant industry.
At the same time as the regime started mass arrests of Falun Gong practitioners, state-run Chinese hospitals began advertising readily available transplant organs, on official hospital websites. While in most nations the waiting time for an organ is measured in years, these sites advertised organs available on demand.
Independent investigations revealed that these organs were taken from detained Falun Gong practitioners.
The many speakers highlighted different aspects of the Chinese regime's oppression inside and outside China, including sending arms to Darfur and Zimbabwe, and supporting oppressive communist regimes in Burma and North Korea. Other speakers mentioned the Chinese regime's invasion and occupation of Tibet, and pointed to the recent violent repressions of monks' protests as an indication of the true nature of the Chinese regime and of communist ideology in general.
Speakers from Cuba and Vietnam emphasized that it is indeed this communist ideology, of suppression of the individual and elevation of the state, which has led every communist regime to be among the worst rights violators on the planet. These speakers understand from firsthand experience how horrible it is to live under a communist dictator.
All these groups, with all their different issues, came together with the understanding that they all share a common cause—ending human rights abuses, in China and eventually everywhere; and that together, these varied groups were a much more powerful force.
Part One of a multi-part series