US Congress Members, Representatives of Non-governmental Organizations, Religious Leaders and Human Rights Advocates Express Their Support for Falun Gong at Rally in Washington DC
On July 19, 2007, Falun Gong practitioners from Europe, the United States, Asia and other areas around the world held a rally in front of Capitol Hill in the United States. They called for the disintegration of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and an end to the persecution. Several US Congress members, officials from non-governmental organizations, human rights lawyers and victims of the persecution made speeches. They urged the CCP to immediately stop the persecution of Falun Gong that has persisted for eight years. Following are excerpts from some of the speeches made that day.
Mr. Dan Fefferman, executive director of the Coalition for Religious Freedom, expressed his solidarity with Falun Gong practitioners enduring persecution in China, and his concern that the crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party are not being adequately covered by the media.
He said: "We become very upset when a few of our pets die because of tainted dog food that comes from China, but why isn't our media covering what is happening to the Falun Gong members today, whose human rights are being systematically violated by the Chinese government? It's really a shame that our news media ignores your plight, while paying so much attention to a few animals in the United States, and I feel very ashamed about that personally. Also, I want to say that as bad as the things that are happening to your members are, the ones who are being tortured and the ones who are being killed, we have to also take a strong stand for your more basic rights of freedom of religious belief or freedom of spiritual association. This right is guaranteed to you by the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights article 18, and yet it is being violated, not just a few hundred not just a few thousand, but millions of people. Your friends, your families are being persecuted by the Communist Regime, and are being frightened into staying away from association with your fellow practitioners. This is one of the worst human rights abuses in the 20th Century and certainly in the 21st century and we should all be speaking out against it. So I want to add my voice to those who have spoken before, and I'm very glad that several congress people have come out today and that resolutions are being supported. I would like to see resolutions with more teeth in them. I'm happy that the State Department has reported accurately on what is happening to Falun Gong, but I would like to see them do more than just report on it, I would like to see our State Department engaging the Chinese government much more forcefully, and much more frequently on this issue."
The Reverend Dr. Keith Roderick, the Washington of Christian Solidarity International, also spoke at the rally. The following are selections of his remarks:
"You know, great civilizations are not built upon the destruction of free conscience, nor can a regime long rule by the suppression of every creative impulse of its people. But these are truths that have been lost in the historical memory of the Chinese government."
"My question is, if China is big enough to host the Olympics, can it be big enough to respect individual human rights, even dissent? Why should it fear movements that promote high moral ethics, charity, and just relationships between neighbors? The Chinese government will not diminish the spirit of freedom, only itself. Your presence here, and your advocacy over these past years is a testimony to right over wrong. Such rallies encourage the pursuit of freedom and human rights. And no one, no government, no other ideology, will be able to diminish the greatness of the human spirit. And the enterprise that you are advocating here today, I want you to know that all of us who are up here today have joined you because we believe that your cause is just. What you advocate is something that we all advocate as your allies. And we remain strong and support you in your free expression of conscience, and we oppose all efforts to silence your dissent. Thank you very much for coming out today."
The following are some comments by Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director of Religious Liberty Programs:
"Thank you for inviting me to share this important and sobering anniversary with you. I am honored to be here at the U.S. Capitol with so many courageous and good people. But I am deeply distressed that it is necessary for us to be here, on the eighth anniversary of the banning of Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party."
"...the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government has been particularly virulent. In fact, one of the most prominent human rights lawyers in China, the courageous Gao Zhisheng, has described the persecution of Falun Gong adherents as "soul-stirring" and "stiflingly brutal". On this day to stand up for the persecuted in China, I want to urge us to follow Mr. Gao's example in speaking out."
"The Bible says in Proverbs 24: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?"
"Like Mr. Gao and other advocates for freedom and democracy in China, we as individuals, we as the United States government, and we as concerned citizens of the world must rescue our brothers and sisters who are being led away to death. For us, the cost is nowhere as great as it has been for human rights activists who are vulnerable to the Chinese government's brutality. It is time for our immediate awakening. Thank you." Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey , member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, also spoke at the rally. Congressman Payne has been at the forefront of efforts to restore democracy and human rights in nations throughout the globe. He has received numerous awards and honors from national, international and community-based organizations alike.
Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey , member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, also spoke at the rally. Congressman Payne has been at the forefront of efforts to restore democracy and human rights in nations throughout the globe. He has received numerous awards and honors from national, international and community-based organizations alike.
"Thank you very much, it's a pleasure to be here, and to participate in this very peaceful demonstration, showing the support, and exposing the government of the People's Republic of China, in the matter in which it's been illegally and unlawfully persecuting people simply because of what they believe in. It was eight years ago today that the People's Republic of China began their nation-wide persecution against the Falun Gong. We all know it's a peaceful practice used all over the world. It is with a profound sense of honor and responsibility that I join with you here today."
"So many civic, religious and political leaders of distinction on moral issues vital to all of us will celebrate this sixth-annual rally. In recent years, the United States Department of State in its annual human rights report, reports that repeatedly, the People's Republic of China's policies and its harsh persecution of Falun Gong should be condemned. Falun Gong practitioners have continued to suffer bloody persecution by the PRC. These practices have directly resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths, through hundreds of torturous methods, with millions of people in prison, over the years. Persecution happens because in the face of opposition, the oppression and degradation, people stand by silently, and let it happen. But not the people here. The people here today should be commended. The people here today are saying that we should stop this oppression. So we are here today to say, "we will not let this happen again."
"Today, few spiritual, or religious people in the world face the degree of depth of persecution, as do the members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China. Our government will continue to speak out against China's wrongs. Whether it's with Falun Gong practitioners in China, or whether it's the support for the government of Sudan, as the PRC's oil work and interest in Sudan puts China on the wrong side of a human rights issue, where millions of people are displaced, many, many have died, 2-300,000 have died in Darfur, and the government of the People's Republic of China continues to support the brutal dictator, al-Bashir of Sudan. And so persecution must be stopped, whether it's in Sudan, or whether it's in the provinces of the People's Republic of China. You will continue to have my support. We will continue to push this issue forward. And like Dr. King said, that "one day we hope that all people will be free." Thank you very much."
The President of Concerned Women for America ,Wendy Wright, also spoke at the rally:
"Usually when someone is guilty of a horrendous crime they try and hide it. The Chinese government has not been shy about speaking of and admitting the crackdown that it's had against the Falun Gong. That is a special kind of evil. A wickedness that goes beyond what is normally seen throughout history.
It's because the Chinese Communist government wants to not only own peoples' bodies, but their souls, and if they can't own your soul they'll try and break you so that either you die, your soul is broken, or they own you. Back in 2001 the Washington Post was reporting that the torture was breaking the Falun Gong. They were reporting that the high pressure tactics and the torture was allowing the communist government to quote "Gain the upper hand." in its protracted battle against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. That was five years ago, and yet it continues. The movement continues. The government has not been able to break and to destroy this movement. You can all take encouragement from history and other movements in which there was a terrible crackdown. There have been terrible crackdowns for hundreds of years against Christianity. From the time that Christianity began there were torturous tactics used against the adherents to try and break them, to try and end the movement. Its been over two thousand years and it's only grown stronger. You can take encouragement from that and from the words of Jesus Christ who said 'Don't fear the one who can destroy your body, but rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.'
The communist government is now being shown for its own corruption and injustice, and that corruption and injustice is reaching across the waters into America through its tainted products. Americans realize that we can't stand back silently while another regime abuses its people because that lack of concern for human beings will reach across borders into other countries. And now Americans are paying the price and suffering because of the corruption and injustice in China. We can't be silent. We have to speak out, and this gathering today will have an effect. As we gather each year it means that this corruption, this injustice against a movement will not go unopposed. And that we will join together, those of us from different movements must speak out for each other in order to protect each one of us. Thank you for gathering here today. Thank you for not being silent. And I want to thank all the other speakers and all the other leaders who are not forgetting, who are not ignoring what is happening to those in another country. And let's continue this work, not only to protect ourselves, but of course, first and foremost to protect others. Thank you."
Heather Cayless from The Jubilee Campaign also spoke at the rally. Following are some excerpts from her speech:
"The Universal Declaration on Human Rights boldly declares in Article two, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." And later in Article 18, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion..." China is acting in grave violation of these fundamental freedoms by oppressing and stifling the voices and beliefs of its citizens."
She continued: "The Falun Gong endeavor to gain greater understanding of "truth, compassion, and tolerance." Through meditation, exercises, and literature [the teachings of Master Li Hongzhi] they gain happiness and health. The movement is promoting the betterment of society, improving mental, physical, and spiritual health; they are not a threat to the Communist regime! As an apolitical group they do not interfere with government policies, yet they are consistently the target of severe repression and unwarranted attacks. Tragically, today it is not even the practice of Falun Gong belief that warrants arrest and detention. According to the U.S. State Department, "The mere belief in the discipline (even without any public manifestation of its tenets) has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment."
In her conclusion, Ms. Cayless stated: "China, it's time for you to GROW-UP, and join the community of countries who uphold the fundamental rights of their citizens. NOW is the time to show the world what you are, not the bully who oppresses its citizens but a country which is strong and secure and welcomes the participation of its people."