(Clearwisdom.net) On July 16, practitioners from all over the world gathered in Washington DC to mark the tenth anniversary of July 20, when the Chinese Communist Party started the brutal persecution of Falun Gong. They rallied to call for an end to the persecution in China, and a number of NGO's spoke at the rally in support. Some excerpts from their speeches are below.

Freedom House

Dr. Sue Gunawardena-Vaugh from Freedom House said at the rally, "We stand in solidarity with members of the Falun Gong community, and with individuals throughout the world who support the rights of all people to peacefully practice two of the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)- that of free expression and of belief...

The repressive and authoritarian practices of the Chinese government are particularly evident in the draconian treatment of Falun Gong practitioners. Thousands of practitioners of Falun Gong remain incarcerated in prisons. Others are forced into extrajudicial "reeducation-through-labor" camps or confined to psychiatric institutions. Several hundred Falun Gong have died in detention due to torture, abuse, and neglect since the 1999 crackdown by Beijing. This brutal repression o f the Falun Gong is done in blatant violation of international human rights law.

It is time for China to end this abuse...

It is incumbent on those of us who fight for freedom to give voice to those who remain voiceless and to hold the Chinese government accountable for its appalling human rights record.

I will conclude invoking one of my own personal heroes who fought for freedom and social justice in our own country, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. King said that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." His words resonate even more strongly today, as we live in an ever-shrinking, globalized community in which we are ALL, our brother's and sister's keepers."

Church Women United

Ms. Patricia Burkhardt of Church Women United said, "Today, I stand here in solidarity with all peace loving people who hate oppression. We stand here in solidarity with Falun Gong adherents who are at this time under vicious attack for the practice of their peaceful way of life... Within one decade, the Chinese communist regime's suppression against Falun Gong has resulted in one of the largest human tragedies.

Torture of Falun Gong adherents has been documented in each of China's provinces, in jails, labor camps, brainwashing centers, and schools in China's big cities, small towns, and villages.

To date over 3,000 deaths have been documented, as well as over 63,000 accounts of torture. An estimate of the real figure puts the actual death toll in the tens of thousands.

All detained Falun Gong practitioners have been forced to undergo what can only be described as brainwashing techniques which involve great suffering. Beyond the initial brainwashing techniques many different kinds of torture have been documented and they describe unspeakable horrors which are difficult to talk about. These include organ harvesting forced upon live Falun Gong practitioners and many other acts of torture.

The Falun Gong practitioners have responded to all of this with markedly peaceful means. Throughout the decade of persecution, they have refused to adopt violence. Instead, adherents first tried to reason with Communist Party rulers through letters and petitions. When these fell on deaf ears, the Falun Gong turned to Tiananmen Square where-through quietly meditating or displaying banners before being arrested -they sought to call upon the conscience of the Chinese people as well as world leaders. As the persecution continued, the Falun Gong began countering state propaganda by distributing information exposing the persecution.

Collectively, the movement constitutes one of the largest non-violent movements in the world.

At the same time Church Women United praises their courage to face the persecution with compassion and tolerance.

Church Women United stands with you together in solidarity until the persecution is ended."

Jubilee Campaign

Erin Weston from Jubilee Campaign said, "Since last year, we have seen little or no significant improvements or measures taken by the Communist regime to stop the persecution of religious groups in China...

"Freedom of religion is not only inherent to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to choose, practice, expand, or change one's beliefs is fundamental to healthy dialogue, growth, and all other freedoms for every individual. The Falun Gong religion is a practice based in principles of "Truthfulness, compassion and forbearance," yet the Communist regime ironically considers this group a dangerous cult.

Since 1999, however, the Communist Party has tortured, illegally imprisoned, beaten, trafficked and psychiatrically abused members of this group. Who is really evil? Who really doesn't respect the value of human life and the essence of what makes us who we are?"