Lighting the Human Rights Torch in New Zealand

( On December 18, 2007, after traveling for three months through Europe and Australia, the Human Rights Torch reached "The Land of the Long White Cloud" -- New Zealand. Representatives from the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), the Taiwanese, Burmese, Sudanese, Indonesian, and Tibetan communities, Falun Dafa practitioners, Chinese Democracy activists, and Greens and Labor Party members gathered in Auckland for a ceremony and rally to kick off the New Zealand leg of the global relay.

The rally was hosted by renowned lawyer, president of the Auckland Civil Rights Committee, and CIPFG member Mr. Barry Wilson. Mr. Wilson introduced the background of the Human Rights Torch Relay and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong. He pointed out that the CCP fears Falun Gong because Falun Gong promotes the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance" -- a vastly different moral standard than that of the CCP.

New Zealand Greens MP Keith Locke carries the Human Rights Torch

Attorney Barry Wilson said that the CCP fears Falun Gong because Falun Gong promotes the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance"

Representative from the Maori tribe, Professor Manaki spoke in the Maori language and welcomed the Human Rights Torch

MP Keith Locke urged entry to China to investigate the truth

Representative of the Burmese community, Naing Ko Ko expressed his support for Falun Gong practitioners and other groups under CCP persecution

Jia Kuo said that Falun Gong practitioners are moral and ethical role models

Maire Leadbetter understands that no pain can compare with the CCP's live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners

Auckland Councillor Cathy Casey calls for Access to China to Investigate the Persecution

Auckland Councillor and CIPFG member Dr. Cathy Casey said that the human rights torch is a symbol of solidarity for the plight of the Chinese people, and particularly Falun Gong practitioners. She pointed out that the CCP refuses to allow the international community to investigate its human rights abuses.

Dr. Casey became involved in CIPFG after the Hon. David Kilgour -- co-author of a report on China's state-sanctioned organ harvesting of living Falun Gong practitioners -- visited New Zealand almost two years ago.

Dr. Casey had a kidney removed two years ago and said she could understand why people travel to China for organ transplants.

"What China will not tell you is that [the organ] may have come a Falun Dafa practitioner," Dr. Casey said. She emphasized the fact that Falun Dafa practitioners are persecuted only for their beliefs, and that the CCP will not admit this, or allow the international community to directly investigate the persecution. Dr. Casey declared that if the CCP allowed Amnesty International, the Hon. David Kilgour, and herself to enter China to investigate, they would be able to expose the truth.

"The symbolic torch relay shines for all victims of the Chinese Communist Party," she said. "To the CCP, there are many 'enemies' around the world. In New Zealand they have also tried to control the New Zealand people. They slander Falun Gong on the Chinese Embassy's website, and publicly deny that practitioners in China are arrested for merely practicing their exercises. When the Divine Performing Arts came to perform in New Zealand, they tried to stop people from watching the show. How dare the CCP tell us what to do on the land of New Zealand?!"

Dr. Casey also questioned, "How can we turn a blind eye on the sufferings of Chinese people, and sign the free trade agreement with China, or support the Beijing Olympics? Today, we are here to say "NO", we cannot ignore these issues!"

Representative from the Burmese community calls for athletes to not participate in the Beijing Olympics

President of the Burmese Trade Union New Zealand branch, Naing Ko Ko said in his speech, "We enjoy freedom in New Zealand, but our brothers and sisters in Burma do not have human rights or basic freedoms. The CCP supports the Burmese military government; because of the existence of the CCP, there is no human rights. I call for all New Zealand people not to participate in the Beijing Olympics. Meanwhile, I express my support for Falun Gong practitioners who suffer persecution, and other groups who are persecuted by the CCP."

"Falun Gong practitioners are moral and ethical role models"

Representative from the Transitional Government of China, Jia Kuo said in his address, "In his defection, Jia Jia called for the entire body of CCP members to withdraw from the Party. During my past year of interactions with Falun Gong practitioners, I have come to a deep realization that they are all good people. They are full of righteousness and compassion, and should be the moral and ethical role models of the Chinese people. However, Falun Gong practitioners are suffering persecution by the CCP, which is a crime against humanity. Today, as a representative of the Transitional Government of China, I call for all people to stand up against the (CCP's) persecution of Falun Gong."

Ms. Maire Leadbetter of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission said, "One of the reasons that we are not making progress on human rights is because we didn't work together often enough." She expressed her happiness on seeing everyone who had gathered to support Falun Gong and other persecuted groups such as the Sudanese and Burmese people, and felt there has been a leap forward in ending human rights abuses around the world.

Ms. Leadbetter said China's slogan for the Olympics, 'One China - One Dream,' was inappropriate, as the human rights abuses continue in the lead-up to the games. She felt it was founded on the suffering of numerous people, and built on the pain and anguish of Falun Gong practitioners, Burmese, Christians, Tibetans, Darfuris, human rights defenders, and the common Chinese citizen. Ms. Leadbetter also said that the price of the upcoming Olympic Games is too high, yet no pain can compare with the CCP's live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.

She reminded people of the promises made to the international community by the CCP during their application to host the Olympic Games, to improve human rights conditions -- yet no such improvement has been witnessed. Ms. Leadbetter urged the international community to require the CCP to immediately improve its human rights situation, and stop persecuting and aiding in the persecution of all relevant groups.

New Zealand MP and Greens Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mr. Keith Locke said the torch relay was very important for all groups suffering human rights abuses under the Communist Party in China. He said the rally is one that supports freedom and calls for the CCP to stop its persecution of Falun Gong and other groups. He said that we have seen the CCP's support of other tyrannical governments in exchange for their resources, such as its support for the Burmese and Sudanese governments, due to the gains in mining fossil fuels. Mr. Locke also pointed out that the CCP promised improvements in human rights and freedom of press, but that the people of New Zealand have witnessed first hand the CCP's interference with journalist Wang Ning's interviews. He called for the New Zealand government not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Chinese people through signing free trade agreements.

The Human Rights flame is lit in New Zealand

Global Alliance for Democracy and Peace's Director General, Mr. Yang Guisen, and chief editor of the New Zealand New Chinese Newspaper (Xin Bao), Mr Chen Weijian, also spoke at the rally. On the conclusion of the speeches, a "Greek Goddess" passed the Human Rights Torch to Auckland Councilor Dr. Cathy Casey, who then passed the flame to the Torch Ambassadors -- representatives from various community groups and other distinguished individuals. At that instant hundreds of balloons were released into the air, and the square was filled with applause and cheers.

After the Human Rights Torch was lit, with police vehicles in the lead, Torch Ambassadors marched through the busiest streets of Auckland before reaching Aotea Square, where Chief Amato spoke on behalf of his tribe. He condemned the CCP's crimes of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, and imparted his best wishes toward all participants and supporters of the Torch Relay.