Breaking the Darkness: Sacred Flame of the Human Rights Torch Relay Lit in Athens


Breaking the Darkness: Sacred Flame of the Human Rights Torch Relay Lit in Athens

By Chen Weijian
Boxun News
Aug 14, 2007

The Human Rights Torch is ignited in Athens. (The Epoch Times)
The Human Rights Torch is ignited in Athens. (The Epoch Times)


Human Rights Torch Update
(Exclusive NTDTV Video)

ATHENS—The day of August 9, 2007 will be recorded in the respective histories of Greece and China. On this very day, in Athens, a human rights torch, symbolizing human rights and freedom, was lit in this world-renowned historical city.

As dusk fell, the Hellenic Parliament buildings at Syntagma (Constitution) Square in Athens, Greece were immersed in golden sunlight. The blue and white national flag of Greece fluttered in the wind. In front of the fountains at the center of the square, a stage was being built. The national flags of various countries were slowly raised, as were light stands.

Around the stage, members of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG), coming members from four continents, pulled out their banners and flags. Written on the banners in both English and Greek was, "The Olympics and Crimes against Humanity Cannot Co-exist in Beijing." Another big white banner with red Chinese characters read, "All-China Alliance for Protecting Human Rights and Opposing Violence" came from mainland China and represented billions of people living at the bottom of Chinese society. As soon as this banner was opened it attracted a crowd of reporters eager to photograph this neer-before-seen message from the Chinese people.

After sunset two Masters of Ceremony stepped onto the podium, announcing to the crowd congregated in front of the podium that the event was officially beginning. First, the distinguished female Austrian singer Melanie Fleck mounted the podium to sing the theme song for the Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR). Propelled by her voice the message glorifying human rights rang through the entire square.

The Secretary-General of Interfaith International, Dr. Charles Graves was the first speaker. He explained the original intention of the HRTR: to stop the persecution of and the organ–harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China. Afterwards, a statement from U.K. Baroness Caroline Cox was read, in which she stated that the day on which the Global Human Rights Torch Relay movement is launched in Athens will be the most important day in human history. She hopes to raise the world's attention about the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners happening in China. "Through calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, we can put an end to the persecution soon, and safeguard the Olympic spirit and human dignity," she said.

CIPFG, Speakers Explain HRTR

Ms. Emmy Pfister, a CIPFG member organizing he Australian leg of the HRTR, said that now is the time to let Chinese authorities know that human rights do matter. Ms Pfister said Chinese people had pinned their hopes on the Olympics to improve their rights and were waiting for the world to speak out on their behalf.

Leading member of the CIPFG and former Canadian Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific region, Hon. David Kilgour, stated in his speech, "Independent international organizations and observers have been saying for several years that human rights abuses by the government of China are worsening as August, 2008 approaches, not improving as it promised in its successful bid to win the right to host the games … This is absolutely not what we expect from any government hosting the Olympics."

Kilgour continued, "If the killing of Falun Gong practitioners across China does not stop immediately—and we'll all know if it does—people of goodwill everywhere should call for a shunning/boycott of the 'Bloody Harvest Games' or the 'Genocide Olympics', as Mia Farrow termed them in connection with the government of China's role in Darfur. "

David Kilgour applauds Pan Qing at the Olympic Games vs. Crimes Against Humanity In China forum in Athens on August 7. Both support a boycott of the Beijing Games. (Jianxin Wang/The Epoch Times)
David Kilgour applauds Pan Qing at the Olympic Games vs. Crimes Against Humanity In China forum in Athens on August 7. Both support a boycott of the Beijing Games. (Jianxin Wang/The Epoch Times)

The next speaker was Mr. Pan Qing, an overseas spokesman for the All-China Alliance for Protecting Human Rights and Opposing Violence. In his speech he introduced the wish of ten of thousands of average Chinese people who signed their names on a petition, "We want Human Rights, not the Olympics." This wish represents millions of people's true desire. He described how the names on this petition were collected by Mr. Yang Chunlin in northeastern China. Walking in the deep snow, he collected the signatures one family after another, one village after another. Pan called Yang the Prometheus of China. Yang has been detained by the Chinese Communist regime.

Pan condemned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for stealing the sacred flame of the Olympic Games, and turning it into a tool for the dictatorship to persecute people. He listed some of the people who are being persecuted in China: people who lost their homes because their houses were forcefully demolished, farmers who lost their land, and workers who lost their jobs and are living in misery. He hopes that the true spirit of the Olympic Games, represented by the Human Rights Torch Relay, can be passed on to China.

During his speech, Pan's image was shown on a big screen at the square. His message, representing the lowest segment of Chinese society, was heard by the world for the first time, here in Athens, the birthplace of democracy and human rights. His speech was also broadcast into mainland China after breaking through the information blockade imposed by the CCP.

Supporters of the Human Rights Torch Relay opening ceremony hold banners and flags in front of the Hellenic Parliament. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)
Supporters of the Human Rights Torch Relay opening ceremony hold banners and flags in front of the Hellenic Parliament. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)

Following Pan were politicians and human rights activists from several countries. Every speaker received warm applause from the audience. After the speeches, the organizers released a flock of doves to symbolize peace.

According to the event organizers, the CCP had lied and claimed that there were terrorists in their group. As a result, the square was surrounded by armed police. All vehicles on the square were searched, including outside broadcast vehicles. Event organizers had to use cell phones to talk directly with police.

CCP Tries to Suppress HRTR

The Human Rights Torch Relay is a direct challenge to the CCP and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The CCP has used all of its influence in the international political arena to dismiss the importance of the "Human Rights Torch Relay."

The CCP pressured the Greek government to block all activities connected to the "Human Rights Torch Relay." The CCP not only promised to offer Greece the preferential trade status, but also invited Greek government officials and business delegations to visit China.

The Royal Plaza Hotel, which is directly adjacent to the square, was designated as the site for a press conference. The CCP put pressure on the hotel manager to cancel the contract for the conference room to be used for the press conference. The hotel manager refused to bend to the pressure and honored the contract for the conference room.

The organizers said that they had gone through unbelievable difficulties in the process of applying for the human rights torch lighting ceremony at the square. The Greek government had been under intense pressure from the CCP to cancel the ceremony. Public appeals in favor of holding the ceremony have also been strong.

The Greek government finally agreed that the organizers could hold the event but lighting of the torch would not be permitted. The atmosphere at the square was very tense. Policemen in uniform and plainclothes were using cell phones and walkie-talkies to keep in touch with their superiors.

Just a little over one hour before the event was scheduled to start, the Greek government ordered it cancelled. Organizers told Greek government authorities that it would be impossible to cancel the event because the singer had already been on stage singing and the audience was already in front of the stage watching; in the fact the activity was already underway.

A crowd of media covers the Human Rights Torch Relay opening ceremony. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)
A crowd of media covers the Human Rights Torch Relay opening ceremony. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)

As the two parties continued to negotiate, police were standing-by, preparing to cut off power. The Greek authorities faced a difficult choice. If the event were held successfully, the Greek government would offend the CCP. Several news media were broadcasting the event live. All the media were waiting for the lighting of the torch. All the preparatory activities were finished; however the organizers were still negotiating with the Greek officials. The event organizers had to ask the singer to perform one more song.

As time passed, the atmosphere in the square grew more and more tense. The organizers realized that they could not wait any longer. They decided to light the torch, even if the police cut off power and disrupted the event. A great moment had arrived because of the resolute decision by the organizers.

Three maidens, representing the Greek goddesses of freedom, peace and justice bear the sacred flame. (The Epoch Times)
Three maidens, representing the Greek goddesses of freedom, peace and justice bear the sacred flame. (The Epoch Times)

There was no announcement. Suddenly silently, the torch was lit. Four young maidens representing the Greek goddesses of freedom, peace and justice walked toward the altar holding the torch.

Determination and peace could be seen on the maidens' faces as they held the torch. The sacred flame was glowing in the night sky. At this holy and pure moment, many people in the square were moved to tears.

Then the European torch carrier, 2006 Winter Olympic bronze medal skier Martin Lubinnishi from Latvia, lit the torch in his hand from the torch of the Greek goddesses at the altar. Cheers broke out from around the square. After he lit the torch, Lubinnishi ran around the square and lit the torches held by others surrounding the stage. At this same moment, Mr. Pan Qing from "All-China Alliance for Protecting Human Rights and Opposing Violence" representing the Chinese people lifted up his torch together with the Greek goddess.

At this sacred moment, with the crowd cheering for the lighting of the Human Rights Torch Relay, people suddenly realized that the police were not carrying out their orders to turn off the power.

When people turned around to thank the police who might face dismissal for disobeying orders, they discovered that the police also had tears in their eyes. One police officer said that he had heard about the difficulty that the organizers had faced in arranging the event. He discovered that the organizers were all kindhearted people, not the terrorists as had been described by the CCP. The police were deeply touched by the event and all that it symbolized.

The Human Rights Torch Relay opening ceremony held in Athens ended successfully. The torch will make its way through Europe, Australia, Africa, the United States and finally to Asia. It will also be passed to mainland China.


Aug 14,2007
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