MPs, council members and human rights and ethnic groups marched through the streets of Auckland yesterday to support a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Global Human Rights Torch Relay is travelling through 150 cities in 35 countries across Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia with the message that the Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot co-exist in China.
The relay's torches were first lit in Athens in August and arrived in Auckland yesterday. The relay was initiated by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, established last year.
Tens of millions of Falun Gong followers have allegedly suffered abuse from the communist Government since a ban on the practice in 1999.
Falun Gong has alleged torture, illegal imprisonment, psychiatric abuse, and forced labour of its practitioners.
The relay has been supported by hundreds of government officials, past Olympic medallists and individuals and organisations from around the world, with the hope of bringing an end to all human rights abuses in China while highlighting the persecution of Falun Gong.
The coalition believes the "mistake of allowing Nazi Germany to host the 1936 Olympics must not be repeated in Beijing in 2008".
Yesterday's relay started in Glen Innes and travelled by motorcade to Queen Elizabeth Square in the city with a young woman dressed as a Greek goddess holding a lit torch.
Various groups and individuals spoke about human rights before 500 helium balloons were released and the procession moved to Aotea Square for closing speeches.
A ceremony later in the day was held at Garden Place, Hamilton, with speakers including Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is described as a system of "mind and body cultivation" related to Buddhism and qigong, introduced in China by Li Hongzhi in 1992.
The teachings are articulated in two main books, Falun Gong and Zhuan Falun.