The Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR), an international campaign that seeks to put human rights on the Beijing Olympic agenda has arrived in Ghana and has gone on a rally in Kumasi.
The arrival of the torch in Ghana, a first stop on the African continent is part of a 12-month global relay calling for an end to all reported human rights violations supported by the Chinese government.
Inspired by the Olympic torch, the Human Rights Torch Relay is expected to visit over 150 cities in 37 countries before it would be welcomed by the Chinese people leading up to the Olympics in August 2008.
The torch, which was handed over to Ghana from India has already toured Europe, Australia, New Zealand as well as Indonesia.
It is touring the world with the premise: “The Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in China”.
It highlights the persecution of Falun Gong, the most severely persecuted group in China, the plight of Tibetans, Christians, democracy advocates, outspoken lawyers and reporters as well as the fueling of oppression and slaughter in Darfur, Burma, Zimbabwe and North Korea.
Among the organisers of the campaign are Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), Asia-Pacific Human Rights Watch Charitable Trust, Amnesty International Ghana, All-China Alliance for Protecting Human Rights and Opposing Violence and Friends of Falun Gong in the USA.
Falun Gong is a religious organisation in China.
The various groups are spearheading the campaign created to draw attention to what it terms as the Chinese Communist Party’s worsening human rights violations both inside and outside China’s borders, and to press for change.
The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), which was established in 2006 and said to consist of over 300 legislators, religious leaders, lawyers, medical doctors and human rights advocates from Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania is aiming to go into China to independently investigate the persecution of members of Falun Gong, especially the reported crimes of organ harvesting.
According to Zoe Ackah, the campaign coordinator in Ghana and a volunteer with CIPFG, there cannot be any Olympic games in China if the human rights record in that country was not the best to write home about.
Participants at the rally in Kumasi included concerned individuals, churches, civic and professional groups as well as non-governmental organisations committed to universal human rights.
The torch ambassadors included players and officials of King Faisal Football Club, Kessben Football Club, Hiplife artist Okyeame Kwame and Mr Michael Brigandi, President of Amnesty International, Ghana.
Leaflets and posters throwing light on the campaign were distributed to members of the public as the torch moved though principal streets in Kumasi. And as the protestors moved through the streets, many people offered their support for the campaign.
Already many have offered their signatures in support of the campaign. There is a booth at the Baba Yara Stadium where leaflets are being distributed to members of the public on the sidelines of the 26th African Cup of Nations (ACN).