WASHINGTON–Marking the 10th year since former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin banned the practice of Falun Gong, over 1,000 practitioners from around the globe protested July 16 at a rally on Capitol Hill.
Congressmen and women, speakers from human rights, religious and pro-democracy organizations expressed their words of condemnation of the Chinese communist regime’s harsh policies towards Falun Gong practitioners, ethnic minorities, religious adherents, and democracy advocates.
Of special note in this year’s rally was the presence of Geng He, the wife of renowned lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, who on Feb. 4 was abducted and feared tortured and killed by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Security. Gao’s wife and two children only this year managed to escape from China and were awarded asylum in the U.S.
It was July 20, 1999 that “the CCP launched a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong,” said Gail Rachlin, from the Falun Dafa Information Center and the host for the event. “It was a conscious and deliberate decision by [former Communist leader] Jiang Zemin and taken up by the CCP propaganda,” said Ms. Rachlin.
The tone of the rally was set early on by the first speaker, Dr. Sue Vaughn from Freedom House, an organization that has been closely monitoring the status of democratic and human civil liberties in China for several years.
“Chinese citizens cannot democratically choose their leadership at any level of government…they cannot enjoy the most basic rights and civil liberties of a robust free society …cannot organize, protest or criticize their government. They cannot express their political opinion or freely practice the religion of their choice,” said Dr. Vaughn.
“The Chinese government in terms of pervasiveness and cruelty is the worst violator of human rights on the earth,” said Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. “…too many in the European community and the United States act as if it is not happening,” he said. “We need to remind President Obama that first and foremost [should be] human rights; trade and commerce issues come second.”
“The use of torture [by China] has been documented over and over again and by the United Nations.” Rep. Smith said he believed that the forced abortions and sterilizations in China to be the “greatest crime against women,” making it illegal to have brothers and sisters.
“God Is On Our Side”
The Gao family—not just lawyer Gao—had suffered tremendously under their constant surveillance, interference, deprivation, and physical abuse by the CCP.
“I can speak out what is on my mind without any danger,” said Gao Zhisheng’s wife Geng He. Describing the persecution of Falun Gong, she said that when Gao learned the details about it, he was “shocked” and it “made his heart extremely heavy.”
Geng said she remembered the day Gao learned about the truth of the persecution. As he was reading through the materials, he had tears in his eyes the whole time which became red and swollen, she recalled.
“From that day on, he was determined to take the responsibility to seek justice for this group of people,” Geng said.
Gao risked his life to go to Shandong, Hebei, and Northeast China to investigate the facts of the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Geng said that Gao realized that it was not only the Falun Gong practitioners who were brought much pain, but that the continued policy of the persecution of Falun Gong has affected the nation. It made people “lose their humanity, lose their morality, brought a feeling of shame and guilt, and affected the most fundamental values.” “This is a terrible thing and the most unfortunate thing for the nation,” said Geng. She said she was also speaking for Gao.
Geng closed with words from Gao:
“Gao has said: ‘to end this nation’s sufferings, we must have people with high morals; Falun Gong practitioners have done it, we must do our part.’ Not to mention that there is God, whose Will cannot be resisted.”
Religious Concerns About China’s Persecution
Several of the speakers came from a religious background, and focused particularly on the religious aspect of the Falun Gong persecution in China, namely a peaceful non-violent people being brutally treated. They recognize that Falun Gong is an ancient, peaceful meditation and exercise practice.
Patricia Burkhardt, representing Church Women United, spoke of the persecution as a “vicious attack on people practicing a peaceful way of life.” She characterized the last decade of persecution as “one of the largest human tragedies that mankind has ever known.”
Reverend Patrick Mahoney, Christian Defense Coalition, said at the rally: “I stand in solidarity with every person who was ever brutalized.” Rev. Mahoney, with some of his faith, laid roses in Tiananmen Square just before the Olympics. He said it was no disgrace, but rather an honor, to be arrested and expelled from the country.
Yanjun Sun, a scholar in religious studies, openly withdrew from the CCP early this year. As a consequence, he and his family in China have been persecuted. He first praised Falun Gong as “the most sincere, kind group, and possessing great wisdom.” Mr. Sun said: “the Chinese communist regime tries to stir up conflicts among different ethnic groups to make them hate each other…The Chinese Communist Party is the most dangerous enemy of mankind…”
Largest Human Rights Legal Effort Since WWII
Theresa Chu from Taiwan is the representative of the Global Falun Dafa Association and the coordinator and director of World Urge of the Human Rights Law Foundation (Asian division) spoke of the enormous legal challenge that the persecution has been. More than 50 lawsuits, involving 30 lawyers, in 30 countries have been filed against Jiang Zemin and other Chinese officials.
“This [is] the largest international human rights effort since World War II,” Chu said.