Thank you for inviting me here today, I appreciate the opportunity to speak at this important event. I am honored to address the courageous men and women who have put themselves at risk by organizing and attending today's rally.

Today we gather to acknowledge Falun Gong practitioners as they stand up for a basic freedom all Americans have and perhaps often take for granted -- the freedom to practice their beliefs. Unfortunately, this human right is not afforded members of the Falun Gong in the People's Republic of China. I echo the thoughts and words of my colleagues in strongly condemning the Chinese government in Beijing for its blatant violations of human rights time and time again. It is impossible to overstate my outrage at these violations.

I believe that one reason America has achieved so much is the diversity of religious belief, which is not just tolerated but fostered. It is a key element to the success of American society. I also believe in what the authors of the Declaration of Independence called 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' I contrast that with what the government of the People's Republic has offered the Falun Gong -- imprisonment, harassment and death.

Present here today, I am told, is Mengyang Jiang. Mengyang is a brave constituent of mine who recently traveled to the Republic of Iceland. She made the journey in order to protest on behalf of the Falun Gong during the state visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Mengyang was detained along with twenty other United States citizens by Icelandic authorities at Reykjavik Airport.

It is bad enough that Falun Gong practitioners are subjected to horrors by their own government in their homeland. Now, however, it has become apparent that Chinese authorities are pressuring other nations into detaining American supporters outside of China's borders. I wonder how long until another country is coerced into violating the rights of the Falun Gong.

My friends, Falun Gong practitioners in America should know, you will always be free to practice your beliefs here. Let us hope that someday you will be free to do so in your native land.