Melbourne Welcomes the Torch of Freedom



Melbourne Welcomes the Torch of Freedom

By Denis Charleton
Epoch Times Melbourne Staff
Nov 18, 2007

Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly Kirstie Marshall, together with fellow MLA Jenny Mikakos acted as ambassadors and torch bearers at the ceremony. (Win/The Epoch Times)
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly Kirstie Marshall, together with fellow MLA Jenny Mikakos acted as ambassadors and torch bearers at the ceremony. (Win/The Epoch Times)


Annette Xiberas of the Wurunjeri tribe, the traditional custodians of the land on which Melbourne's Federation square now stands, gave her welcome and blessing to the Global Human Rights Torch Relay and the ceremony about to unfold on the main stage on Friday November 16.

On behalf of the next generation, Annette's 3-year-old daughter Julie also gave a welcome while a new silver crescent moon already shone down from Melbourne's still blue cloudless sky. The young girl and the new moon seemed to symbolise a fresh start for humanity and anticipation of a future world in which torture and genocide would be a thing of the past.

Former State Member of the Legislative council and master of ceremonies for the evening, Victor Perton, introduced a succession of inspiring speakers including representatives of refuge communities from Tibet, Darfur and Burma, Olympians, religious leaders and local politicians, interspersed with first rate musical performances from the likes of songstress Danielle Soccio, Victorian Teen Idol winner Brooke Addamo, Jai Larkham of the Wishing Well Band and Ajak Kwai.

Hailing from the south of Sudan, Ms. Kwai and her group treated the audience to songs played in the traditional style of her homeland including We Have the Power to Change the World a message echoed by several of the speakers throughout the evening.

Alaph Lisimba, Vice President of the Darfur Community Association of Australia, explained about China's support of the Sudanese regime and supplying the weapons for that regime to commit genocide in Darfur. Neither was genocide in Mainland China itself ignored. Referring to the persecution of Falun Gong in China, Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG) representative and President of the National Civic Council Peter Westmore drew attention to the "horrific events that have taken place over the last eight years" since former communist leader Jiang Zemin initiated the campaign to eradicate the peaceful spiritual practice.

Buddhist monk and former President of the Tibetan community of Australia Sandup Tsering told how he was born in a refugee camp in northern India after his parents managed to escape from Tibet. Since then, 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese communist oppressors with thousands still languishing in prison for trying to exercise their legitimate human rights. Anne Phelan and Kellie Jones from Actors for Refugees read out 15 relevant articles from the International Declaration of Human Rights to remind everyone exactly what those rights are.

Nweni Tun pointed to the lack of human rights in Burma and outlined the Chinese Communist Party's role in propping up the brutal military regime in that country. From the legal perspective, Karl Esser, a barrister from the Justice Project, stated that every individual in every country "has the right to be free from arbitrary arrest".

Angela Anderson dressed as the Goddess of Justice at the Human Rights Torch Relay's opening ceremony in Melbourne, Australia. (Win/The Epoch Times)
Angela Anderson dressed as the Goddess of Justice at the Human Rights Torch Relay's opening ceremony in Melbourne, Australia. (Win/The Epoch Times)

The Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of Melbourne Hilton Deakin was introduced by MC Victor Perton as a tireless campaigner for human rights over many years. Bishop Deakin reminded the audience that many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, are persecuted in China if they choose not to bow to the authority of the state controlled "churches". He said that with regard to human rights in China we can divide Australians into two groups. The first group consists of people who genuinely do not know what is going on in China and that is "regrettable". The second group comprises those who do know what is going on and choose to do nothing. That, declared Bishop Deakin, is "reprehensible".

Green Party Councillor from the City of Maribyrnong Janet Rice expressed similar sentiments while adding that there were also many Chinese immigrants in Australia who are frightened to speak out for fear of Communist Party reprisals against their relatives still living in China; but Cr. Rice reserved her harshest words for those politicians, businessmen and athletes who turn a blind eye because of financial considerations.

Picking up on the theme, Democrat Party candidate Tim Wright pointed out that Australia's $50 billion worth of trade with China should by no means be an impediment to the government taking a firm stance on human rights. China needs Australia's raw materials and needs markets for its consumer goods, and therefore the government should be using that trade as a lever to engineer change in China.

Indeed, Bev Brock remarked that everyone should be boycotting cheap consumer goods manufactured in Chinese sweatshops, and that we must all press upon our elected representatives that we do not wish economic and financial considerations to be put before human rights. She maintained that to ignore the plight of the oppressed is tantamount to supporting that oppression, going on to state that the Olympics is a golden "opportunity to focus world attention on China".

Former Chinese basketball team member Kai Chen supporting the Torch. (Win/The Epoch Times)
Former Chinese basketball team member Kai Chen supporting the Torch. (Win/The Epoch Times)

The spectacular climax of the evening was the arrival of the torch into Melbourne's Federation Square. Olympian and current Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly Kirstie Marshall, together with fellow MLA Jenny Mikakos acted as ambassadors and torch bearers, while Melbourne City Councillor Fraser Brindley received the lighted torch on behalf of the city. Cr. Brindley had earlier proposed a motion in council for the City to officially greet the torch but this was voted down by the faction loyal to ethnic Chinese Lord Mayor John So.

Moving as was the torch lighting ceremony, to the accompanying strains of the Tung Song choir, the loudest cheers of the evening were reserved for those few former Olympians with the courage to stand up and be counted. Jan Becker from the Australian '64 swim team pulled no punches with the statement that the Chinese Communist Party has "committed the worst atrocities we have seen in history" and that "the Olympics should be taken away from China unless they clean up their act".

Former Chinese basketball team member Kai Chen delivered a remarkable address loosely based on the Rev. Martin Luther King's immortal "I have a dream" speech. Kai Chen told Melbourne of his dream of a free China where all could live with dignity. He called on all athletes going to China to stand up for freedom in solidarity with the Chinese people and let them know that they do not support "the despotic and tyrannical regime". He said proudly that he "chose to become an American because I chose to be free". The applause and cheers cascaded around Federation Square and out into the Melbourne night.

The Human Rights Torch Relay will travel around Victoria for the remaining two weeks of November, passing through around sixty country towns and suburbs of Melbourne.



Nov 19,2007
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