Falun Gong practitioners gathered on the grass at Parliament in Canberra on Wednesday to mark the last sitting of Parliament before the Beijing Olympics.
The atmosphere was one of quiet reflection and celebration, just one day after the Senate unanimously passed a motion to press for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
The motion also noted that the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights applies to the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners world-wide; the practice should not be used as the basis for incarceration; and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has committed to being a zhengyou, or "true friend" to China and raise challenging human rights issues with the communist regime.
Representative of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia, John Xiao, said Australian politicians were sending a very strong message to the Chinese Communist Party.
"We know that trade will take care of itself, but human rights need champions. I am very happy to say that Australia is a champion of human rights when it comes to Falun Gong," he said.
Mr Xiao said "we sincerely hope that our Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd will personally deliver the message of the motion to the leaders of China before the Beijing Olympics".
Australian Senators Natasha Stott Despoja and Andrew Bartlett sent letters in support of the rally and to highlight the plight of Falun Gong around the world.
Senator Bartlett co-sponsored the motion that passed through Parliament. He called on Australians to sign the Million Signatures petition run by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.
"The fate of Falun Gong under the communist regime in China is awful—the oppression they face on a daily basis; the surveillance, the discrimination and the torture in and authoritarian state seems hopeless," he said.
Senator Stott Despoja said she had heard that Falun Gong practitioners had been attacked on the streets of New York and Australia.
"Some U.S. lawmakers have accused the Chinese Government of instigating these attacks. If true, they represent a sinister new turn in the Chinese Government's bewildering persecution of those who practise the Falun Gong way," she said.
Leigh Smith from the World Organisation to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong said an angry mob of around 600 people had brutally attacked Falun Gong practitioners in Flushing, New York at a quit the communist party service centre.
She said the attacks were instigated by the Chinese Consular General in New York to turn the attention away from civil unrest following the Sichuan earthquake.
She said 7000 schools collapsed almost instantly killing countless children, while government buildings remained untouched.
"People started getting angry. The people started asking questions," she said.
The regime has been inciting hatred against Falun Gong in New York and with attacks on five people in Sydney, as a distraction.
"The CCP is very good at demonising Falun Gong and making the people of China think that Falun Gong are evil," she said.
Albert Lin, a representative from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, said he was "extremely concerned" by the volume of organ procurement in China from non-consenting living donors, who are mostly Falun Gong practitioners.
He welcomed the move by the Government to work toward ending the persecution in China.
Falun Gong practitioner Qu Yao arrived in Australia last July after being held in a labour camp and subjected to torture for about eighteen months.
Miss Qu is a university lecturer with 18 years experience. She holds a masters degree in both linguistics and business.
"I have personally experienced the persecution. I was deprived of sleep and forced to work long hours."
She said guards would use electric shock batons on you if you fell asleep or did not pay attention in the brainwashing classes.
The persecution even extended to her family members. Her eight-year-old son was ridiculed and "humiliated" because his mother practised Falun Gong.
Former Olympic swimmer Jan Becker reminded the crowd of Beijing's promise when awarded the games in 2001 to adhere to the Olympic Charter and improve human rights.
"Hopefully China will see that the world is awakening to what they are doing," she said.
Note: The Australian Parliament first passed a motion about Falun Gong in December 2003 to assist the rescue of relatives of Australian Falun Gong practitioners illegally detained in China. The Senate passed the second, about the harassment of Falun Gong practitioners in Australia, in June 2005.