Members of Congress, NGOs Join Thousands of Falun Gong Practitioners in Rally on Capitol Hill

Ms. Nina Shea, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, speaks during the rally in Washington DC. (photo report)

Ms. Nina Shea, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, speaks during the rally in Washington DC. (photo report)

WASHINGTON DC (FDI) – Statements from U.S. Senators, Congresspersons and prominent non-governmental organizations joined a chorus of voices on Capitol Hill Tuesday, condemning the Chinese regime’s four-year persecution of Falun Gong. Speakers also applauded the “courage” and non-violent nature of practitioners of the ancient Chinese exercise and meditation discipline. (photo report)

Hosted by former U.S. Ambassador, Mark Palmer, 6 Members of Congress and 14 NGO leaders addressed the rally in person, while 3 Senators and 8 House Representatives either sent staff members or rally volunteers read their statements to the gathering.

Four years ago this past weekend, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners rushed to Washington DC to seek help from the U.S. government for fellow practitioners in China who, two days before, had become the victims of an apparently sudden, nation-wide persecution campaign in the world’s most populous country.

Then-Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, had orchestrated the campaign, and ordered Chinese authorities to utilize whatever means necessary – arbitrary detention, forced-labor, extortion, torture, “brainwashing” sessions and even killings – to “eradicate” the practice. According to Party veterans, Jiang believed the peaceful nature of Falun Gong would make it an easy target for a political campaign to boost his own power-base, and that the practice could be crushed “within three months” (special report).

Four years later, the rally on Capitol Hill aimed to send a clear message to Jiang and his supporters within the Chinese regime: “We will not waver,” declared Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-R). “We will not stop until the reign of terror which began four years ago, and the persecution of the Falun Gong is brought to an end.”

Members of Congress Condemn Widespread Torture and Killings

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-R), who has been an ardent supporter of Falun Gong and who initiated House Concurrent Resolution 188 to the Congress last July (news), was the first Member of Congress to speak, highlighting the violence against Falun Gong in China.

“The reign of terror which began on July 20th, 1999 when police broke into the homes of hundreds of innocent Falun Gong practitioners continues to this very day,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. “Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners suffer grave abuses while in police custody. The police torture practitioners with electric batons…women practitioners are raped in front of other prisoners, with several reports of gang rapes at the forced labor camps. Electric prods were used to beat female practitioners in sensitive areas of their bodies.”

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen also took aim at the regime that authorized the persecution. “Violence against Falun Gong practitioners is an officially sanctioned policy as revealed in secret Chinese documents…a special government task force has been created – the ‘6-10 Office’ (about) in Beijing to lead the campaign against Falun Gong. This office affords wide range of action to Chinese authorities in dealing with the Falun Gong, discharging them of legal responsibility if a practitioner dies in detention due to these incessant beatings.”

Congressman Steven Rothman (NJ-D) echoed Ros-Lehtinen’s condemnation of the Chinese regime: “I have joined with my colleagues in the Congress…to let [the Chinese regime] know their persecution of the Falun Gong, cannot stand, will not be tolerated, will not be ignored, and until they eliminate the persecution of the Falun Gong, they will never be right in the eyes of the American Congress and the American people,” the New Jersey Congressman said. “It has been a great honor and privilege for me – ever since I came to Congress – to be a supporter of the Falun Gong.”

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (CA-D), who introduced House Concurrent Resolution 447 last year condemning the Chinese regime’s attempts to persecute Falun Gong in the U.S. (special report), spoke about the plight of fellow Californian, Dr. Charles Li. “We are all here to work for freedom in China. But no sacrifice is more than the dream of Charles Li, an American citizen imprisoned by the Chinese government” (news).

Ms. Woolsey added, “China’s repression must end. We must declare that intolerance is intolerable. We must continue Falun Gong’s struggle for freedom in China, and in so doing, we will strike a blow for freedom everywhere.”

Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-R), Sherrod Brown (OH-D), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-D) also delivered speeches at the rally, while Reps. Frank Wolf (VA-R), Tom Lantos (CA-D), Christopher Smith (NJ-R) and Dennis Moore (KA-D) sent legislative assistants with prepared speeches to be delivered at the rally.

United States Senators Frank Lautenberg (NJ-D), Paul Sarbanes (MD-R), and Christopher Bond (MO-R) and Reps. William Lacy Clay, Jr. (MO-D), Michael Capuano (MA-D), Charles Gonzalez (TX-D) and Mark Udall (CO-D) each sent statements to be read at the rally by volunteer rally organizers.

Over 30 non-governmental organizations and groups participated in the rally, including the World Organization Against Torture, Hudson Institute, Religious Freedom Coalition, Family Research Council, Freedom House, Friends of Falun Gong, Population Research Institute and Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Prominent NGO Commends “Courage and Vision” of Falun Gong Practitioners

Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Mr. Michael Horowitz devoted much of his speech to commending the courage and faith of Falun Gong practitioners.

“As I’ve watched the Falun Gong…I know that it carries with it a great force of love, for nothing else can explain your awesome courage and vision,” said Mr. Horowitz. “If your example continues and if we work to support you in every way we can…the 21st Century will be a century in which faith predominates…you [Falun Gong] lead the way.”

Mr. Horowitz continued, “And I hope, I pray, I commit myself to this vision. That Zhizhen Dai’s daughter will know why her father [who was tortured to death by Chinese police for his practice of Falun Gong] had the courage he did….will know that his courage brought freedom to millions. That will be the story of the 21st Century, and when its history is written, the Falun Gong will occupy great, great chapters in it.”

Religious Freedom Chairman States Startling Statistic on Communist Regimes

William J. Murray, Chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition surprised rally attendees when he opened his remarks with a startling statistic: “In the 20th Century,” began Mr. Murray, “Communist governments killed more of their own citizens, than human beings that have died in all the wars in all the history of mankind.”

A significant contributor to this startling figure was the death toll incurred during the “Great Leap Forward” – a mass movement to “modernize” China ordered by the late-Chairman Mao between 1958-1960. According to the Cambridge History of China, the estimated number of deaths during the “Great Leap Forward” was between 16 and 27 million people with over 10 million dying in 1960 alone. Some China experts have put the death toll at 30 million.

Subsequent Communist Party movements that swept through China in the last 40 years, such as the “Great Cultural Revolution” of the 1960’s and 1970’s killed untold numbers.

In 2000, CNN’s Senior China Analyst, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, equated the campaign against Falun Gong with these previous Communist Party movements. “Jiang has mobilized a Mao-era mass movement against [Falun Gong],” wrote Mr. Lam.

Also like previous movements in Communist China, Mr. Lam’s article suggests the campaign was undertaken by Jiang to consolidate his own power-base. “The most severe criticism leveled at Jiang’s handling of the Falun Gong is that he seems to be using the mass movement to promote allegiance to himself,” Mr. Lam wrote.

Related article: Photo Report