Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Torch-lit march for human rights in East and Southeast Asia

March in Oslo, 7/12/2014.
(If the link doesn't work, chances are, I have deactivated my account). 

There were 4 groups- Vietnamese, Filipino, Tibetan and Uyghur. TQT estimated that there were more than 200 in total, and one can see that the largest group was the Vietnamese, though it was reserved for yellow flags people, not the red flags people. There were also some Norwegians. 
The march started from Østbanehallen and headed towards Stortinget. The large banner reads "Support for human rights in East and Southeast Asia". There were very few banners, mostly small. For fear of burning, people mostly carried torches and flags, leaving passers-by puzzled as to what they demanded. Karl Johans gate was crowded, many people saw the march, it was magical enough that Norwegians went out on the streets on Sunday. However, not everybody accepted the leaflets (the marchers had 400 in total) and apparently not everybody knew what was going on, though strictly speaking, it's hard to say that they would know a lot more after reading the leaflet, which contained general "do you know" questions about the lack of freedom and violations of human rights in the 4 aforementioned countries, no statistics, no mention of specific cases and almost no photo showing any oppression. 
Apart from the few times the marchers stood at the intersection and blocked the traffic, unsure whether to stop and be cut off from the other marchers or to cross the street while the traffic light was red for pedestrians, the march stopped 1st in front of the large billboard of Freia chocolate and finally settled in front of Stortinget (the Parliament). 
As they started at nearly 3.30pm, by the time everyone got to Stortinget, it was dark. Here the organisers set up the speakers, microphones, tables... and took out food and drinks, the participants stood facing them and facing Stortinget, waiting, while the guys who had been holding the large banner the whole time were standing there, still holding it. The music started- "Wind of Change" by Scorpions. Here people started eating pepperkake, drinking gløgg, while the banner guys were still standing there, mouths dry (but they might have got something afterwards, the narrator is unsure). People walked about, eating, drinking, talking, looking happy and content, the scene resembled a social gathering, if not for the speeches. 1st, TN had a general speech, then there were representatives of the different national/ ethnic groups. There were also 2 Norwegian speakers, 1 of whom was a politician of Venstre, possibly Ketil Kjenseth, who said diplomatically that Stortinget was aware of the issues in VN. Then 1 girl, named Iris or something similar, half Vietnamese half Filipino, went to the microphone, smiled awkwardly "Det er kaldt!" and began to sing "Imagine", apparently forgetting that John Lennon, like other anti-VN war protesters, contributed to the pressure on the American government, led to the abandonment of South VN in 1973 without any guarantee that the Paris agreement would be respected and carried out, which subsequently forced Viet people to flee the country in boats, who either went to the US or Europe or other places or ended up dead in the sea. Afterwards she had a short speech, and ended it with the word "Peace!". 
TN then had a speech addressing the Viet community. He talked about the inequality, poverty in VN, about the poor, unfortunate children and old people, and such general stuff. No mention of more serious violations of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, etc. No mention of the oppressions and arrests of bloggers, Buddhists, Christians, etc., no statistics about deaths in custody, mistrials, cases that had tampering of evidence, etc. No reference to the bloggers who had been arrested and imprisoned, and other prisoners of conscience, even the one arrested a few days previously- Nguyễn Quang Lập aka Quê Choa aka Bọ Lập. No reference to Hồ Duy Hải, who was sentenced to death based on fabricated evidence and testimony, the topic everyone had been talking about lately. 
Nevertheless, there was a sense of community, and a look of contentment, on people's faces. "Wind of Change" was played again, people sang along, waving their flags, looking cheerful with a cup of gløgg in their hands. 
The march ended. Everyone smiled, thinking this was a good start, and parted. Each returned to their home. 

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