The United States should help bring an end to the Chinese regime’s “horrific” persecution of Falun Gong so adherents can exercise freedom of belief, said former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Beijing’s brutal campaign marks its 22nd year.
Pompeo spoke to NTD, a sister media of The Epoch Times, on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the persecution.
“With respect to Falun Gong,” he said, “the absence of religious freedom in China is horrific, it is tragic, it’s gone on for too long and America needs to lead the world to ensure that those people have the opportunity to practice their faith in the way they want to.”
Falun Gong, a meditation discipline that espouses the values of “truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance”, was first introduced in northern China in 1992, and won broad appeal among the Chinese public for its health benefits. Threatened by its popularity, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched an eradication campaign targeting Falun Gong on July 20, 1999. The entire state apparatus was turned against the practice’s adherents, which by official estimates numbered 70 million to 100 million at the time.
Practitioners over the past two decades have become targets of prolonged imprisonment, slave labor, torture, psychiatric and sexual abuse, and forced organ harvesting for persisting in their faith.
Ahead of July 20, at least 15 U.S. lawmakers issued letters, proclamations, or video messages in support of Falun Gong, so has an international coalition of politicians from 20 countries. A day prior, the State Department also called on the Chinese Communist Party to “immediately cease” the long-running campaign and release all jailed adherents.
“The imprisonment and treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China is unconscionable, and it truly is a violation of human rights at the highest level,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) in a letter.
On the crime of forced organ harvesting, Hartzler noted that the 2016 House resolution (H.Res.343) condemning the grisly practice was “a step in the right direction.” But “more must be done,” she said. The congresswoman is one of 17 lawmakers who sponsored the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2021 (H.R.1591) to combat the issue.
“There are few worse crimes that can be imagined,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) wrote in a letter, referring to organ harvesting. “This unspeakable crime demands justice for the countless victims who have suffered at the hands of the CCP,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) released in a statement on Tuesday “in commemoration of the fallen victims” under the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.
“The CCP has detained Falun Gong practitioners, and in some cases, multiple times, in ‘transformation-through-reeducation’ centers—a preview of the ongoing mass internment and acts of genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang,” he said.
The persecution has continued unabated despite the pandemic last year, with close to 9,500 adherents experiencing police harassment, arrests, or police raids during the past half a year, according to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website dedicated to documenting the persecution.
The suppression has hit close to home for survivors who have family back in China.
Zhou Deyong, whose wife and son live in Florida, has been held in detention in eastern China’s Shandong Province for months. He was accused of “sabotaging the enforcement of the law” after the police broke into his home and found Falun Gong books and booklets belonging to his wife, also a Falun Gong practitioner.
Deng Cuiping from Yunnan Province, mother of another Florida resident, was arrested in 2016 along with another four practitioners for giving informational materials about the persecution. Deng, who was jailed for three years previously and fired from the primary school where she taught, is currently serving a six-year sentence after being held for eight months without trial.
“The Falun Gong practitioners like my mother are sincere and kind and never hurt anyone. Why do they have to give up six years of their life or longer just to uphold their conscience and belief?” Deng’s daughter Iris Lu Wanqing, an accountant in Temple Terrace, told The Epoch Times in 2019.
Multiple lawmakers also highlighted the core values that the practice promotes. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), in a congressional proclamation to “honor the peaceful practices of Falun Dafa,” said the practice’s teachings “bridge cultures, nationalities, race, gender, and age” that “contribute to a healthier and more harmonious society.”
“Our world would surely be a more peaceful one if we centered those values in our daily lives,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.).
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), who wrote a letter to Beijing authorities concerning Zhou’s plight, said he plans to introduce another resolution to “highlight the particularly egregious nature” of the eradication campaign.
“If we remain silent in the face of these transgressions, we neglect that moral imperative and do so at the peril of civil society,” he said in a pre-recorded speech.