As the Chinese regime’s persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong enters its 25th year, U.S. lawmakers and former officials decried the heinousness of Beijing’s ongoing abuses, while highlighting that its repression has even reached America’s shores.
Despite enduring such brutality, Falun Gong practitioners in China should hold fast to their faith and know that Americans will always stand for freedom of belief, U.S. lawmakers said.
On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a nationwide campaign to eliminate the faith group. Before that, Falun Gong, a practice rooted in traditional Chinese beliefs about spiritual development involving meditative exercises and the core tenet of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, had attracted a huge following in China with an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents.
But perceiving this popularity to be a threat to its absolute control, the atheist communist regime went after practitioners with an unprecedented level of ferocity and determination, said Sam Brownback, former U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
“The malice with which the CCP has treated the Falun Gong is unmatched,” Mr. Brownback told NTD, the sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.
Since 1999, tens of millions of adherents have been targets of a brutal suppression effort designed to break them physically, financially, and socially. This includes forced firings, family separation, detention, harassment, surveillance, forced labor, torture, and forced organ harvesting.
An untold number of practitioners have perished. Survivors have described decades of being targeted by the communist regime as like “living in hell.”
Forced Organ Harvesting
U.S. lawmakers spotlighted the CCP’s industrial-scale practice of killing detained Falun Gong practitioners for their organs, known as forced organ harvesting.
In 2019, China Tribunal, a London-based independent expert panel, concluded that the regime had for years been harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience on a substantial scale, a practice that continues today. Detained Falun Gong practitioners, it found, are the primary source of those organs.
Among the numerous items of evidence cited in its judgment, the tribunal cited extremely short wait times for critical organs in China, something unheard of in countries with mature organ donation systems where years-long wait times are the norm.
“These people are being disappeared for practicing something they believe in,” Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) told NTD in its program “Special Report—The Persecution of the Century.”
“People are just disappearing. If they’re the right age and in the right condition, they’re disappearing to provide those organs to other wealthy people in China,” she added.
“This is the Chinese Communist Party in action. This is what their value system is. And so we need to tell that story here at home.”
To Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), forced organ harvesting is “unspeakable.” “Yet the Communist Party of China is doing it to their individual citizens with impunity. And we go and shake hands and work business deals,” he said.
“If that hand was being extended to you with the blood on it of someone that just took out somebody’s organs, someone that was unwilling to give those organs up and lost their life because of their belief, would you be so willing to extend your hand in friendship or a business partnership, or even in a diplomatic partnership?”
The Epoch Times broke the news of the regime’s forced organ harvesting in 2006. Since then, a growing body of evidence and investigations have confirmed the grisly practice.
Mr. Brownback said he initially thought that killing for organs might be an exaggeration. But as he did more research and as more reports came out of China, he knew it was true.
“This is a barbaric practice that would make a Middle Ages executioner blush. You’re doing forced organ harvesting, and happening in the world today, by … the second largest economy in the world,” he told NTD.
“And you’re going to let them be a part of the global community when they’re doing forced organ harvesting. That’s preposterous. And yet we allow it.”
He expressed relief that Congress had started acting on it. In March, the House passed the first-ever bill to impose sanctions on individuals and entities, including CCP members, involved in forced organ harvesting. The Senate version of the bill is currently with the Foreign Relations Committee.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told NTD that the world should work together to end forced organ harvesting, a practice that’s “inhumane” and “undermining human dignity.”
Last month, Mr. Perry introduced the Falun Gong Protection Act that would ban entry to the United States by individuals complicit in forced organ harvesting in China. It would also make it a U.S. policy to work with international allies to stop that crime.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said the CCP’s crimes don’t stop at forced organ harvesting. “The forced organ harvesting, the forced abortions, and the slave labor is just, I think, the tip of the iceberg,” he told NTD. “If we dig a little deeper, we are going to find out a whole lot more.”
The persecution of Falun Gong isn’t limited by China’s borders.
In the United States, federal authorities have recently begun to disrupt the regime’s secretive efforts to silence Falun Gong practitioners raising awareness about the persecution.
In April, the FBI arrested two New Yorkers for allegedly operating a secret CCP police station in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The station is one of the over 50 “overseas police service centers” across the globe, according to a report by Safeguard Defenders, a Spain-based nonprofit. One of the two was accused of targeting Falun Gong adherents in media campaigns and organizing counter-protests to Falun Gong during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in 2015.
A month later, the Department of Justice arrested two Californians on charges of bribing a public official this year to further the CCP’s campaign to repress and harass Falun Gong adherents on U.S. soil.
“So we know about what has happened in communist China. But think about it when they’re coming to countries like the United States,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) told NTD, adding that Western European countries are also targeted, noting Chinese police stations discovered in Italy, France, and the Netherlands.
“What’s very clear is they [CCP] are going to put their thumb on anyone that seeks freedom, and in this case with the Falun Gong [adherents] that want to practice their religious freedom, which our country is founded on,” Mr. Tiffany said.
The CCP “will go after people in any way they possibly can,” he added.
‘Help Is On The Way’
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) complimented Falun Gong adherents as “resilient people.” He had a message for those persecuted in China: “Keep up the good work. Don’t give up your principles. And help is on the way.”
“I hope you will keep the faith because we in America will always stand for those that believe in religious freedom,” said Mr. Tiffany to Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China.
“And I hope that they will keep the faith that someday they will be able to be free people, out from the yoke of communism,” he added.
In her support letter to Falun Gong adherents, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised their “tireless work defending religious freedom and bringing awareness to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.”
“America’s commitment to human rights in China is bipartisan, bicameral, and unwavering—and we will always remain vigilant in defense of human rights around the world,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.
“Democrats, and all freedom-loving people, will continue to speak out until every Chinese citizen can learn, worship, and live free from persecution and abuse by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Mr. Perry also has a message to Falun Gong adherents in China: “Stay hopeful. Keep believing, keep practicing, know that help is on the way, and know you’re not alone.
“Know that all things worth achieving, worth saving, worth supporting and upholding require sacrifices, and if your sacrifice is that silent suffering while you do your work, then that’s part of it.
“And this is the road less traveled, which means that not everybody’s on it, but you’re on it. And there are people that are on it with you even from afar. We hear your cries, we hear your pleas, and we’re going to do everything. I’m going to do everything I can in my power. I’m not in charge in China, but I have something to say in America.”
NTD’s Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.