Letter from US Congressman Bob Barr, Georgia [July 22, 2002, excerpt]
Thank you for contacting me regarding Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa).
Falun Dafa is practiced freely worldwide, yet in Communist China, practitioners are violently suppressed. Of the thousands of Falun Dafa followers arrested in Communist China, hundreds have been sent to mental institutions for "reeducation," hundreds more to jail, and more than 10,000 practitioners have been sent to labor camps without trial.
Situations such as these prompted me to vote for the Freedom of Religious Persecution Act (Public Law 105-292). This often overlooked bill was signed into law in October of 1998 and remains a true accomplishment of the 105th Congress. The Freedom of Religious Persecution Act monitors and provides for sanctions against countries engaged in religious or other persecutions. This allows us to have an effect on wrongs committed everywhere without risking a single American life. In accordance with this law, the Secretary of State is to prepare and submit, by September the first of each year, a report on the status of religious freedom in each foreign country. If countries are determined to have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations, the President must impose an economic sanction, or, alternatively, take diplomatic measures.
In addition, such human rights abuses conducted by Communist China, coupled with the unfair trade practices of the nation, prompted me to vote against legislation granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations. Given this recent behavior, it is outrageous for Congress to bow to China's trade demands. I am disappointed Congress did so when they granted Communist China these trade privileges on May 24, 2000.
On July 18, 2001, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced H. Con. Res. 188 which would express the sense of Congress that the Government of the People's Republic of China should cease its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. H. Con. Res. 188 was referred to the House Committee on International Relations [which was recently unanimously passed in the House]. I am a cosponsor of this legislation.
While freedom and democracy continue to flourish around the world, religious persecution continues in many countries. Our founding fathers knew that the freedom to practice one's own religion lies at the heart of a free democracy, and that is why that right is listed first among the Bill of Rights. Many people around the world are not granted that right, particularly in communist countries like China, and other countries with a state-sponsored religion, which does not tolerate religious freedom, as is common in the middle east.
Please be assured I will keep your views in mind should anything come before me in the House of Representatives which deals with Falun Gong.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Your thoughts and comments are sincerely appreciated.
With warm regards, I am,
Very truly yours,
Member of Congress
Seventh District of Georgia