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For the first time in Singaporean history, a human rights torch had come on shore, so declared human rights lawyer Mr M. Ravi, the president of the Singapore chapter of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG). On Saturday, a group of human rights activists and Falung Gong practitioners gather at the Civil Service Club at Changi to continue the international torch relay, which had started in Greece and gone on through countries such Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and most recently Indonesia. An initiative of the CIPFG, the relay is to highlight human rights abuses in China, and in particular the ongoing harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. The coalition is also calling for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics 2008.
At the convening conference, Mr Ravi expressed elation that Singaporeans are now showing more care and concern about human rights issues and abuses. Citing his own experience with the Falung Gong practitioners as their legal representative when a few practitioners were charged for illegal assembly in Singapore, Mr Ravi assured the audience that their persecution under the hand of the Chinese authority is well documented and not something their have fabricated.
Guest speaker Mr JB Jeyaratnam voiced support for the cause and added that there are also human rights violations in Singapore. He expressed the hope that when the time comes [to stand up against human rights violations in Singapore], that we will all be up to it.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the Singapore Democrat Party, Mr John Tan, recounted his interest and concern about human rights abuses in China since his youth. He has heard of persecution of Christians, Tibetans and, more recently, Falung Gong practitioners. Counting it an honour to be able to play a role in calling China to accountability, Mr Tan stressed that China must not be allowed to get away with their abuses by collecting international goodwill through the hosting of the Olympics.
In between local speakers, the moderator, Mr Sng Beng Kok, conducted e-interviews with two foreign guests. Both the Asia Director of the Human Rights Law Foundation, USA, Ms Theresa Chu, and the Human Rights Torch Relay Organising Committee member in Australia, Mr Hamish Oliver Perrett, articulated their support and wished the Singapore relay well.
After the conference, the group held a brief ceremony to commemorate the relay of the human rights torch and proceeded to the Chinese embassy to hand in a petition (see content here). Thereafter, they went to Mount Faber Park for some photographs before dispersing.
As their numbers dwindled, police officers confronted the remaining ten persons and seized their banners and torches on the pretext that the items were needed to aid in the investigation into their possible commission of illegal assembly.