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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Global Human Rights Torch Relay visits Vancouver as last North American stop

May 25, 2008

CP: VANCOUVER — The Global Human Rights Torch Relay made a stop in Vancouver on Sunday.

The visit is part of a campaign to highlight China's record on human rights prior to the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.

Several politicians and human rights lawyers spoke out against the Games being held in China, which they say has an appalling human rights record.

Winnipeg-based lawyer David Matas and Vancouver's Clive Ansley alleged China has been harvesting organs for transplant from followers of the banned Falun Gong, an accusation that China denies.

About 200 people watched a white-clad woman carry the torch into the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The relay started in Athens last August.

When it wraps up July 20 in Hong Kong, it will have been through 40 countries and an estimated 150 cities.

Vancouver is the last of a dozen Canadian cities the torch has visited prior to its departure for Malaysia.

Form there it goes to Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Macau before arriving in Hong Kong.

It wasn't the only rally concerned with the Olympic Games in Vancouver this weekend.

On Saturday, a rally was held on the city's East Side calling for greater social legacy from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Activist Am Johal called for increases in social housing and for the more government involvement in stopping evictions of tenants by landlords looking to cash in on the hot Olympic accommodation market.

When the relay visited Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 14, the protesters found a reception they weren't expecting.

They ran right into the middle of scores of Chinese tourists.

The reaction of Chinese tourists to the Parliament Hill protest was mixed. Some showed passive interest in placards declaring human-rights abuses, while others ran away when protesters tried to hand them information pamphlets.

One did accept a brochure, took a look at it and muttered "garbage" in Chinese as he walked away.

The relay group has condemned Beijing's crackdown in Tibet, the alleged arrests of nearly 2,000 Falun Gong followers, and it support of the governments in Burma, Darfur, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

It also claims persecution of Christians, lawyers, reporters and "all who have suffered as a result of Beijing's pre-Olympics whitewash."

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