Mr. Kay, 28, a silver medallist in rowing at the Pan American Games in 2003, said he has completed almost 2,600 km so far, riding about 200 km a day. He plans to arrive in Victoria on August 24, the same day as the Olympics’ closing ceremonies in Beijing.
Former Team Canada member and Pan American Games silver medallist David Kay (centre) and former Secretary of State David Kilgour at a welcoming ceremony in Ottawa as part of Kay’s cross-country bike tour supporting human rights in China in advance of t (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Kay is traveling solo without a support van, mostly camping along the way. He said it’s a “real struggle” that he sees “as a small symbol of solidarity with the struggle that human rights activists are currently facing in China.”
Each provincial leg of Mr. Kay’s journey is dedicated to a Chinese human rights activist or victim of the recent suppression of Tibetans in China.
These include an unidentified Tibetan girl in Lhasa and two monks in Sichuan province recently killed by Chinese police; Huang Qi, a human rights website founder who was abducted in June reportedly as part of the Olympics security crackdown; and human rights activist Hu Jia who was convicted of “subversion” charges in April.
In Ontario, Mr. Kay is riding for Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen and member of the Muslim Uyghur community who has been sentenced to life imprisonment in China on terrorism charges.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay have spoken out “forcefully” on this issue, said Mr. Kay, yet Mr. Celil continues to languish in prison “without access to Canadian consular officials or lawyers for that matter.”
The trip is “a humble, solitary attempt of what I can do, as a former dedicated athlete in Canadian amateur sports, to show what concerns Canadian athletes have for human rights,” said Mr. Kay.
He expressed frustration that China has not fulfilled the commitments promised to the International Olympics Committee in 2001 when it made the bid to host the games.
After attending the Dalai Lama’s public talk in Ottawa last October, “it really set in stone in my mind that I would do this [trip] as a way to show my frustration with that and to celebrate the continued activist work that human rights activists are doing in China,” Mr. Kay said.
The head winds have sometimes been very challenging, he said, and on the way he’s bought a small, half-size folk guitar to “blow off some steam when I get stressed out.”
“I spend a lot of my time on the bike in a cycling mode of meditation. I would think any doubt I have in my mind as to my own safety and riding solo is just completely overshadowed by the tremendous work that other people have been doing,” said Mr.Kay.
“It’s the least I can do.”
He is directing donations to his bike tour to the CTC as well as other organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. “It’s not just a Tibet issue; it’s a human rights issue in all of China,” he said.
The CTC said Canada cannot stand idly by while Tibetans are killed, Chinese reformers are detained and tortured, and other activists are rounded-up by authorities in advance of the Beijing Games.
“One missing Tibetan monk, one organ harvest of a Falun Gong adherent, one jailed Chinese blogger is one too many,” said CTC executive director Dermod Travis in a news release.
David Kilgour, former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) and former co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, also spoke at the welcoming ceremony.
In an interview prior to the event, Mr. Kilgour invited all those concerned about human rights in China to join a rally being planned at the Chinese embassy on August 7, the day before the opening of the Beijing Olympics.
The event is the brain-child of Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an award-winning international human rights activist and winner of the Miss World Canada title in 2003. She was born in Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and later immigrated to Canada with her family.
Mr. Kilgour also plans to speak at the rally along with Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and currently Opposition Critic for Human Rights.