Schenectady County

Human Rights Torch Relay makes its way to Capitol

With the Beijing Olympics just 100 days away, activists brought the Human Rights Torch Relay to the
Isabella Murphy leads a parade in front of the state Capitol during the Human Rights Torch Relay in Albany on Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Isabella Murphy leads a parade in front of the state Capitol during the Human Rights Torch Relay in Albany on Wednesday.

With the Beijing Olympics just 100 days away, activists brought the Human Rights Torch Relay to the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday to remind people of China’s crackdown in Tibet and its record on human rights.

The relay is a global grass-roots effort to raise awareness and bring an end to human rights abuses against the people of China, said organizers.

“We must act together and send a message that Olympic games and crimes against humanity cannot co-exist in China,” said Tenzin Norgay, a Tibetan refugee and University at Albany student, who spoke Wednesday at a rally at the Capitol.

“This is not a counterpunch to the Olympic torch, it is aligned with the Chinese people and preserving their basic rights,” he said. “As I speak, senseless killings are taking place.”

After years away, Norgay returned to his native Tibet on a study abroad program with the University at Albany and was appalled to find the capital city of Tibet crowded with Chinese soldiers, migrant workers and prostitutes, and its shrines converted into businesses for tourists, he said.

He said to achieve a harmonious society leaders need to understand the grievances of the people.

The Albany Common Council voted April 21 to support the relay and passed a resolution that accused China of human rights abuses.

The torch has been following the Olympic torch relay in certain areas. It began in August in Athens and will travel to six continents, 40 countries and about 40 cities in the United States.

It arrived in Albany from Paterson, N.J., on Wednesday, the same day the Olympic Torch arrived in Hong Kong to begin its journey through China as the 100-day countdown to the Beijing Olympic games began.

Mass anti-government riots and protests in Lhasa, Tibet — and the subsequent crackdown — have drawn worldwide attention to China’s human rights record and its rule in Tibet ahead of the Beijing Olympics, according to the Associated Press.

Leejun Taylor, coordinator of the Albany event, said Wednesday it’s important to keep putting pressure on China and corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics.

China was granted the right to host the Olympics by pledging to follow the Olympic charter and improve its human rights record, but human rights abuses have worsened, said those who spoke at the event.

The Chinese government arrests dissidents and members of the Falun Gong movement, said Taylor. Her own mother was imprisoned for her participation in Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual discipline for mind and body, she said.

John Jaw, a Falun Gong practitioner, said the Chinese Communists are trying to eradicate Falun Gong by using state-controlled media to present it as a cult to the public. He said the Chinese government has an award for “transform rate,” which is based on how many people will sign up and pledge they won’t practice Falun Gong.

Annie Li, of Albany, said her mother and aunt were arrested four weeks ago by Chinese police for practicing Falun Gong and remain under house arrest in China.

“I stand here and speak for my mother and all Falun Gong who are in China. Their voices cannot be heard; please stop the persecution of Falun Gong in China,” she said.

Albany City Treasurer Betty Barnette welcomed the torch to Albany.

The Albany Common Council passed a resolution of support that reads: “The Chinese government imprisons millions of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighar Muslims, practitioners of Falun Gong, democracy advocates, labor organizers, lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, political dissidents and other innocent citizens in slave labors camps without trial.”

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