WASHINGTON, D.C—On Thursday, April 30, 2009, The Global Mission to Rescue Persecuted Falun Gong Practitioners (GMR) and the Falun Dafa Association hosted a press conference on Capitol Hill. The press conference commemorated ten years of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by bringing victims of the persecution forward to tell their stories.
Sixteen Falun Gong practitioners, including those who have been persecuted and those whose relatives are currently detained, participated in the event. Also in attendance were representatives from GMR, The Falun Dafa Information Center (FDI), and five Congressmen: Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL).
Congressman McCotter’s office reserved the room for the event, while the others spoke in turn of their solidarity with Falun Gong and their strong support for ending the persecution of the practice.
Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) described the persecution of Falun Gong as “brutal and incessant” and said that Falun Gong has both “friends and admirers” in the U.S. Congress.
Erping Zhang, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center, reiterated that the gathering of over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners at the petition office on April 25, ten years ago was both peaceful and within their rights as citizens of China. According to Zhang, Chinese policy was broken when Tianjin Normal School defamed Falun Gong and other qigong’s in its publication, not when practitioners tried to address this issue or gathered at the petition office when their attempts to correct defaming statements were met with assaults and brutality.
Since that time, Zhang said two thirds of the torture cases in China involve Falun Gong practitioners. Zhang noted several cases, such as that of Chinese music star, Yu Zhou, who, since he began practicing Falun Gong, had been immune from persecution due to his star status. During the pre-Olympic purge of Beijing, both Yu and his wife were jailed for 30 days in 2008. Yu died in detention and his wife was sentenced to 3 years.
Zhang said that the Olympics became the reason for the further deterioration of human rights in China. Those arrested during the Olympic “clean up” were sentenced to jail and labor camps after the games. Zhang warned against sacrificing our rights for economic gain. He said, “Today our humanity is being tested.”
Charles Lee, a U.S. citizen who was formerly detained in China for practicing Falun Gong, spoke on behalf of GMR. GMR was founded in Nov. 22, 2002, just three months prior to Lee’s arrest and sentencing in China. Lee said GMR worked diligently on his behalf while he was detained.
Seated quietly in the room holding pictures of their loved ones, were some of the victims of the CCPs persecution of Falun Gong. The group included those who have first hand experience of China’s detention centers and labor camps and those working for the release of loved ones who are detained.
Shuangying Zhang, a nurse and U.S. citizen from NY, said news of her father’s arrest in China last week broke her heart. Her father, a 68-year-old physics professor, was kidnapped and her parent’s home ransacked.
On March 31, her father, whose name is Xingwu Zhang, was put on trial. Her family was barred from entering the courtroom. Denied legal representation, her father was forced to represent himself. Zhang said that the judge told her father that “even though there was no evidence, her father should be sentenced to a long prison term of seven years because of his bad attitude.”
“The pervasiveness of the hatred of Falun Gong exceeds hatred against others,” said Congressman Chris Smith who raised the issue of Falun Gong in every meeting on a recent trip to China with Congressman Frank Wolf.
According to Smith, the U.S. is off to a wrong start with Secretary of State Clinton’s “outrageous” remarks about not letting human rights interfere with U.S. relations with China. Smith contrasted the current administration’s approach to dealing with China with former President Clinton’s approach in 1990. At that time, President Clinton linked Most Favored Nation status to human rights, but then reversed his decision a year later.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, ranking member of the Human Rights Subcommittee, remarked on how China is brokering deals with some of the worst dictatorships around the world. He said, “The CCP is the epitome of evil and they are activating evil around the world. We must counteract this evil force. It can be done, we did it with Soviet Communism.”
Rohrabacher, who served in the Reagan White House, said that had President Reagan been in office during the Tiananmen Student Massacre, he would have simply sent a telegram to China that said, “If you set the tanks on those democracy students, the deal’s off.” Rohrbacher said China wouldn’t have dared to do it. “Since nobody called or sent a telegram, it sent a message that the U.S. doesn’t care about democracy, it cares about money,” he said.
Rohrabacher recounted a story about his father who was the first American to land in Shanghai at the end of WWII. During a very dark time in China’s history, his father and other American soldiers came to the rescue. Rohrabacher concluded his comments by saying “That’s our job; we have to save those people.”