Unwanted spotlight

As the Olympic Torch makes its way around the world on the way to this summer’s Beijing games, th

PHOTOGRAPHER:

As the Olympic Torch makes its way around the world on the way to this summer’s Beijing games, the Human Rights Torch Relay is also traveling as a reminder of continuing rights abuses in China.

The relay torch arrives Wednesday in Albany where it will be lit at 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol by Mayor Jerry Jennings.

A procession with marching band will follow in Capitol Park.

The Albany Common Council voted April 21 to proclaim its support for the relay and its goals. The council resolution accuses China of a list of human rights abuses, cites the Olympic Charter provisions condemning any form of discrimination and directs that the measure be forwarded to the Chinese embassy, Rep. Michael McNulty and U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer.

The relay torch began its journey last August in Athens and is expected to travel through six continents, 40 countries and about 40 U.S. cities. It is arriving in Albany from Patterson, N.J.

Leejun Taylor, coordinator of the Albany event, said the relay is a grassroots, symbolic movement designed to pressure China and the corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics to ensure China’s repressive policies cease.

In addition to the widely publicized police offensive in Tibet, she said the Chinese regime routinely arrests and imprisons citizens it views as undesirable, including dissidents and members of the Falun Gong movement. Taylor’s mother was imprisoned a year ago for her participation in Falun Gong.

Taylor’s mother was later released after U.S. authorities inquired and she is now living with her children in America.

“China has to pledge to honor the Olympic Charter,” said Taylor, noting that the charter’s tenets include preserving human rights, peace and sportsmanship.

Instead of demonstrating progress toward those goals, Taylor said as the games approach this summer unjust arrests are increasing. She said the mother and aunt of a friend were arrested this month.

“You can’t just say one thing and do another,” said Taylor, asserting that China cannot be allowed to use the Olympics for its own international benefit without changing its policies.

“They must be held accountable,” she said.

Taylor, who emigrated to the United States as a young woman, said unless the Chinese government institutes reforms these Olympics will be similar to the Nazi-run Berlin games of 1936.

The Albany Common Council resolution states the Chinese government “imprisons millions of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, practitioners of Falun Gong, democracy advocates, labor organizers, lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, political dissidents and other innocent citizens in slave labor camps without trial.”

The measure cites China for supporting dictatorships in Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe and North Korea, while giving emphasis to the Olympic Charter provisions demanding “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles … the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity … any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or other reason is inconsistent with membership in the Olympic Movement.”

On Wednesday, an 11 a.m. press conference on the Capitol steps will precede scheduled ceremonies.

Categories: Schenectady County

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