(Minghui.org) About 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners and supporters held a rally on July 18, 2019, on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, calling for an end to the 20 years of persecution in China. The 20 years of peaceful resistance to the persecution is a story of nonviolence, wisdom, tenacity, and creativity, according to rally speakers.
Freedom House credited Falun Gong practitioners' efforts as “giving energy to the work we here in Washington need to do.” Many non-profit organizations praised Falun Gong for providing hope and helping others who are not part of Falun Gong. Twenty-two U.S. Representatives sent letters of support to the rally.
Condemning forced organ harvesting was another focus of the rally. Many speakers mentioned the work of the China Tribunal, which ended on June 17, and concluded that “in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”
“This is the culmination of two decades of effort,” Alan Adler, executive director of Friends of Falun Gong, summarized as he opened the rally. In the days following the China Tribunal pronouncement, at least 100 reports were published by news outlets large and small, all around the world.
It was the speakers' consensus that while the U.S. Congress has passed five resolutions, in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2010, and 2016, more work needs to be done.
As the second annual ministerial to advance religious freedom took place at the State Department and President Trump met with religious persecution survivors, including Falun Gong practitioners, non-profit organizations at the rally urged the U.S. government to impose Global Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials involved in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and committing other human rights abuses in China, and to enforce stricter penalties for China under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Congressman Steve Chabot said, “The Chinese Communist Party is truly barbaric. Wrongful imprisonment, so-called “reeducation” — brainwashing, really — torture, forced organ harvesting, and murder are the tools they use to stifle the Falun Gong movement… Now they are doing the same things to Uyghurs. Such tactics have no place in a civilized society. Yet they are commonplace in Communist China.”
Congressman Chabot represents the state of Ohio and serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. “No government, much less the Chinese Communist Party, has the right to deny anyone freedom of religion. As long as I'm still in Congress, I, and many of my colleagues, both republicans and democrats, will fight for your right to practice freely in China.”
“How sad, to know that a hundred million people are being suppressed, and the numbers continue to grow on,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is also a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and a member of the Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Homeland Security.
“I believe in religious freedom for all people, and I do believe that there must be a response to people who die or are missing, because only of what they believe... We believe that China must also stand up to accept the fact that we cannot have a constant persecution of people who just want to worship, or to be able to be with the Falun Gong family.”
She quoted Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” She added, “Your injustice is ours, and that means that we will not give up... We will never, never, never give up. What we should say is not on our watch, not on our watch, not on our watch! Falun Gong must go forward in strength, humanity, power, and victory.”
Concerns over forced organ harvesting have been a theme at this annual rally for the past few years. China Tribunal’s work and conclusion brought a heightened focus this year.
Gayle Manchin, vice chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said, “In 2015, the Chinese government claimed it had banned the practice of forcibly harvesting organs from prisoners, including those of Falun Gong that have been imprisoned for their beliefs. However, last month, an independent tribunal of experts and human rights advocates found credible evidence that the practice continues to this day. This is truly a disturbing allegation and one that we hope the U.S. government will investigate thoroughly.”
She said that the human rights situation in China today is worse than 20 years ago. She quoted statistics from Minghui.org stating that “the Chinese government arrested 688 Falun Gong practitioners for their beliefs, just this past April.”
Benedict Rogers, East Asia team lead with Christian Solidarity Worldwide, welcomed Friends of Falun Gong giving its annual human rights award to ETAC, The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, a charity that helped organize the China Tribunal. Mr. Rogers serves on the advisory board of ETAC.
“I believe that the China Tribunal's findings are incredibly important. They have concluded that organ harvesting, beyond reasonable doubt, has been happening in China, and that there is no evidence to suggest that it has stopped,” he said. “I call on the governments around the world to take that report seriously, and to act up on it.”
Suzanne Scholte, president of Defense Forum Foundation, said, “We are grateful to heroes like David Matas, David Kilgour, and Ethan Gutmann, who documented the horrors happening in the hospitals of China where 100,000 organs were harvested leading to the mass killing of many Falun Gong practitioners. I want to strongly encourage you to never, never, never give up until your God-given human rights are respected. Our governments are finally waking up to this.”
Dr. Linda Lagemann, commissioner of CCHR, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, cited the China Tribunal's conclusion as well, and added, “Citizens Commission on Human Rights calls for the International Criminal Court to intervene in the unconscionable human rights atrocities being committed against Falun Gong practitioners. We also call on the World Psychiatric Association to stand with Congress, other legislatures, and the United Nations on behalf of Falun Gong, and break from its appalling record of failing to address and discipline its members' roles in these crimes.”
Benedict Rogers also highlighted one of the China Tribunal's conclusions, “Anyone in light of the evidence that they have found, anyone who interacts with the Chinese State, not China as a country, not China as a people, but the Chinese Communist Party state, must be aware that they are interacting and engaging with a criminal state. This must go out around the world. It's time to stand up to the criminal state of the Chinese Communist Party. It's time to say enough to the persecution of Falun Gong, the persecution of others, the forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.”
David Kilgour, one of the pioneers in investigating forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, quoted Charles Burton, former counselor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing and professor of political science at Brock University, “China succeeds in its existential threat to pluralistic, democratic and free-thinking societies because we have been blinded by greed, and have looked away for more than 25 years as communist authorities ignored international norms of human rights and fair trade.”
Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said, “I saw on one of the banners that 337 million have quit the Chinese Communist Party. I think there are also a lot of people in the West who have carried on propaganda on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. And I think they should take the opportunity to also apologize, take their conscience back, and quit participating in the lies of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, said, “I stand before you as an America, a mom, who is concerned for people such as yourselves whose family members, whose friends, whose colleagues have been so brutally harmed by the communist party of China. I want to assure you that you are in our prayers and in our work. We stand together united, as individuals pushing back against evil regimes that seek to quiet the voice. We stand with you for honesty, for compassion, for forbearance. These are the tenets of the Falun Gong. And they are ours as well.”
She added, “We have signed a multi-faith letter, demanding the enablers of the persecution here in the United States, American law firms that lobby on behalf of persecutors such as China are called out and asked to drop their lobbying efforts on behalf of these regimes. That they may not be legitimated and that they may not be given special treatment here in the United States. Specifically, Squire Patton Boggs, one of the most prominent law firms in the United States of America, lobbies on behalf of the Chinese regime.”
Gayle Manchin, vice chairman of USCIRF, thanked Falun Gong practitioners for their efforts, “The Chinese government tries to hide its crime from the international community, but your willingness to speak the truth has exposed those lies for the world to see. It is because of your spirit and energy that people like you, despite the current challenges, make us all ultimately hopeful about the religious freedom in China.”
“Falun Gong believers in China have responded to CCP persecution with tenacity, nonviolence, and creativity,” said Annie Boyajian, Director of Advocacy at Freedom House as she pointed out several examples. Practitioners inside and outside China partner to directly communicate with security agents and judges in China by phone and in person, and have successfully secured the release of some detained practitioners.
She added, “Facing the world's most sophisticated censorship and surveillance system, Falun Gong practitioners have proven particularly adept at not only developing new workarounds to preserve access to information, free speech, and data privacy, but also at disseminating them at the grassroots level.”
“These wins are heartening, and give energy to the work we here in Washington need to do... As Falun Gong practitioners continue to win small victories day in and day out throughout China, we look forward to the day when practitioners and believers of all faiths can practice freely and openly in the world's most populous country.”
Faith McDonnell, director of Religious Liberty Programs at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has spoken at the annual July rally for almost 20 years. She said, “I'm just incredibly blessed and inspired by you all, by the ability that you have to stand firm in the midst of what has been going on and to show the truth before the truth came out as evidence, which we now know in terms of the harvesting of organs.”
She praised Falun Gong practitioners' efforts in helping Chinese denounce the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “Thank you so much for that. It's because of you and because of your truth and your standing for truth that that has even happened, that there have been people courageous enough to give up communism online like that.
“You are also helping others who are not part of Falun Gong. I'm a Christian, and Christians in China are being persecuted. You are standing with them when you stand for truth. You are standing for the Uyghurs who are being put in concentration camps in East Turkestan. You are standing for the North Korean refugees who are being pushed back to their own country by China to face certain death in North Korea.”
Benedict Rogers shared, “The U.S. Ambassador at large for religious freedom Sam Brownback has said that China is at war with faith. He also said, it is a war they will not win. The courage and the perseverance of Falun Gong practitioners, even here in Washington DC, standing in this intense heat that we have today, but standing despite that, in solidarity with your fellow practitioners in China, that the courage and the perseverance of practitioners in China enduring persecution, is an inspiration. It is why I'm pleased to stand with you today.”
“What's happened to Falun Gong will happen to Christians as well. God bless you as you are standing on behalf of others as you are being a voice to others,” said Wendy Wright, president of Christian Freedom International.