The Global Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR) arrived in Singapore this Saturday, 19 January, following a receptive welcome of over 200 supporters in Batam last week. A ceremony to welcome the torch was held at Changi, on the east coast of Singapore.
Local politicians, lawyers and representatives of the “SG Human Rights Organisation” were among the citizens who came to support the torch and its worthy message: “The Olympics and Crimes against Humanity Cannot Coexist in China”.
President of The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG), Singapore Branch, human rights lawyer Mr. M. Ravi, welcomed the arrival of the torch, “This is an immensely important event as there has never been a human rights torch that has arrived in Singapore in this fashion.”
Veteran politician and lawyer JB Jayaretnam and John Tan, Assistant Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) both expressed their deep concern for and disappointment at the human rights abuses committed against various groups in China, especially Falun Gong – the most severely persecuted group in China today.
“This event for me is most symbolic above anything else. I hope it is going to have real pressure on the Chinese regime. They are not doing the right thing in terms of their abuse and they ought to stop the persecution,” said Mr Tan.
“If they want friendship of the world and if they want the participation of the Olympics in Beijing, they have to stop the abuse… not because they want business and cooperation, but it’s all part of being human and not to abuse the rights of other human beings”, he added.
Shortly after the human rights torch was ignited, a pick-up bearing the HRTR banner chauffeured two torch-bearing Olympic maidens, dressed in flowing white ancient Greek-style dresses, directly into the heart of the city and later to the Chinese embassy.
The sight was greeted with thumbs-ups and cheers by surprised weekend crowds and tourists along Orchard Road and City Hall. Motorists passing by the Chinese embassy looked on as a statement was read aloud, detailing the Chinese Communist Party’s various crimes committed against the Chinese people and humanity.
The statement closed with a demand that the crimes cease before the scheduled Beijing Olympics in August, especially the crime of harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners, while still alive, for profit. The statement was then handed over to a guard at the Embassy, who promised to pass it on to Embassy leaders.
“The torch turns on the spotlight on China’s atrocity against Falun Gong. We hope that at least today this torch will receive a given attention to all Singaporeans who would come to know that this torch has come to Singapore,” said Ravi.
The Global Human Rights Torch will be relayed through a total of 37 countries and more than 100 cities around the world until August this year. It is next scheduled to visit Sri Lanka, India and Africa.
Local Police Seize Human Rights Torch ‘For Investigation’
Shortly after the HRTR activities ended at Singapore’s landmark hill and frequent tourist spot, Mount Faber, six police officers, tagged by a cameraman, seized two Human Rights Torches and two HRTR banners from CIPFG members.
Categorizing the event as “illegal assembly”, the investigation officer said the torches and banners were needed to facilitate their “investigation”, and repeatedly demanded HRTR event participants to reveal their names and personal particulars, on the pretext of returning the props to the rightful owner after their investigation.
When the police were questioned about the purpose of the investigation and who would be held accountable for the confiscation of the items, no direct answer was given.
Some HRTR event participants told the police to arrest them if they had committed a crime, rather than take away the symbolic items. The police officers were hesitant and seemed uncertain. When the event participants walked away the police did not take any action.
The Human Rights Torch, gaining international attention from dignitaries and citizens around the world, is a symbol of justice and peace, standing for the sacredness of humanity’s fundamental rights.
The banners, which were also confiscated, read ‘Human Rights before Olympics’ and ‘Olympic Games and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in China’.
“The word ‘human rights’ has become a dirty word because of the government’s propaganda. There is no such thing as human rights, only until recent years, the notion of human rights at least,” said John Tan, who was at the scene.
“What is really significant is that Singaporeans are now vocal and daring enough to come out and say ‘hey, this is human rights, contrary to what the government has been telling us. Human rights do not belong to just the West. We want human rights too and we deserve human rights as well.”