WASHINGTON—The mood was somber but optimistic on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Thursday as over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners from around the country and around the world gathered to mark the 13th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong.
Under sunny skies, members of Congress joined representatives from notable human rights and religious freedom NGOs in congratulating the practitioners for their courageous fight for spiritual freedom. Several speakers sensed that a change was in the air.
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“At this year’s rally, we are at a historical moment—when the Chinese people as a whole, and some Chinese leaders, appear to be seeking to end the persecution of Falun Gong,” said Alan Adler, executive director of Friends of Falun Gong USA, during the introductions. “Today’s strong voice to end the persecution of Falun Gong, at this critical time of transition of leadership in China, can make a huge impact on China and for all its people.”
The sense among the speakers and the crowd that the persecution is coming to a close was palpable, a source of that optimism being the growing number of Chinese quitting the Communist Party and its affiliated organizations—a movement called Tuidang. As of July 12, the number of those renouncing membership had reached nearly 120 million.
Buoyed by the news, Rong Yi, president of the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party, said, “[Chinese people] are making the right choices for themselves and for China. Thanks to this spiritual awakening, fundamental changes are happening every day in China today.
“People realize that with China without the Chinese Communist Party, the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and all Chinese people will be ending. Chinese people are stepping out to fight for their freedom and human rights,” Yi added.
She said that the Tuidang movement is bringing freedom to the Chinese people, as it did to Eastern European countries in the former Soviet Union two decades ago.
Faith McDonnell, from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said the “amazing” book “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” gave the truth to the Chinese people suppressed under communism. Speaking directly to the practitioners assembled, she said, “You who know the truth about the lies, tyranny, and terror of communism are a shining light.”
“We Are With You”
A few speakers didn’t pull any punches about what the future holds for the effort to defeat the CCP.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) had only two minutes to make his speech due to a pending vote in Congress. But in that time, he eloquently expressed the evil nature of the CCP, and the solidarity and gratefulness of the American people:
“In our soul and heart, we realize that in truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, you are standing for the goodness in the universe. But you are confronted with one of the worst evils that this humankind has ever experienced,” Rohrabacher said. “Those of us with liberty are grateful to you for your courage, and we will stand in solidarity with you.
“I can assure you that in the hearts of the American people, we are with you, will stand with you, and are grateful to you for what you’re doing,” he said.
The evilness of the CCP and its mechanisms for persecution were picked up by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. “The 610 Office, established in 1999 to carry out the repression of Falun Gong, is eerily similar to the Gestapo and the KGB in its propaganda and ruthless measures.”
Ros-Lehtinen noted that China’s “abhorrent policy” had resulted in hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners being held in re-education labor camps, and forced to work slave labor. Over 3,400 deaths of practitioners have been confirmed.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) spoke of the horrific torture that Falun Gong endures under the communist regime, and echoed the support of Americans. “The U.S. government and Congress and all aspects of our society stand with solidarity with those victims and with those seeking to liberate the Falun Gong practitioners inside China,” he said.
Quoting from the most recent State Department’s Human Rights Report, Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.) said, “Overseas and domestic media and advocacy groups continued to report instances of organ harvesting, particularly from Falun Gong practitioners and Uighurs.
“I deeply respect the courage of those who peacefully protest against violence … Peace and justice are not only values, they are the calls to action that we must live out every single day,” Farr said.
Peaceful Falun Gong Practitioners
Several speakers contrasted the peaceful nonviolent actions of Falun Gong practitioners with the bloody abuses of the CCP.
Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas) noted that “Practitioners of Falun Gong are peaceful without political ambitions.”
Dr. T. Kumar, international advocacy director for Amnesty International USA, said, “Falun Gong practitioners never harmed anyone; they only did their meditation on their own. That’s the point we should ask the Chinese [regime]: Why do you want to hurt and harm people who never hurt you or anyone else?”
This question bewilders Alice Chung, daughter of Chung Ting-pang. Her father, a Taiwanese citizen and Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested June 18 after being accused of “harming state security.”
The young lady was visibly upset, and nervous. “I come to ask for help to rescue my father; he’s now been detained in China for about three weeks, and we still can’t contact him,” she said. “And even though I myself am not a Falun Gong practitioner, yet I know it is a good belief and brings peacefulness and happiness to my family.”
Rep. Rohrabacher wrote a letter July 10 to the Taiwanese government that deplored the silence shown toward the arrest of Chung and the failure of Taiwan in demanding the safe release of a Taiwanese citizen.
Annette Lantos, chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, read a letter at the rally from Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, daughter of the late Congressman Tom Lantos. “With their gentle, meditative exercises and a moral philosophy that emphasizes compassion, truth, and tolerance, the Falun Gong are truly model citizens in every community in which they live,” Dr. Swett wrote.
Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Reps. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Reid Ribble (D-Wis.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.)
Several speakers were impatient with the Obama administration for not speaking up more strongly for human rights in China. Amnesty’s Kumar said, “The thing I want to ask the U.S. government and President Obama: Why are you silent in advocating for the release of tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners here?”
“President Obama must do what is right and not be timid in the face of Chinese bullying and threats,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.
Rep. Farr pledged he would speak with the president and urge him to support Falun Gong’s freedom in China.
Near the end of the rally, Rep. Smith announced that he would be holding a Congressional hearing focused exclusively on Falun Gong and the treatment practitioners in China are facing.
In addition to the speakers, five senators and 16 representatives sent letters of support to the rally.
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