Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), who was recently appointed to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, told The Epoch Times: “We really have to watch what China is doing.
“We should let [the Chinese regime] know that you should stop abusing these people and harassing your own citizens.”
The commission was formed in 2000 to help Congress monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China. Steel is the only freshman to the commission, which consists of several senators, House representatives, and senior administration officials.
The commission submits annual reports to the president and Congress. Last year, it reported that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials had “taken unprecedented steps to extend their repressive policies through censorship, intimidation, and the detention of people in China for exercising their fundamental human rights.”
Steel commented on the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, which has been ongoing since 1999. Falun Gong is a spiritual meditation practice based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Since the CCP began the persecution, hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been arrested, tortured, and detained in prisons, labor camps, or psychiatric wards for their faith.
In 2020 alone, 6,659 practitioners were arrested and 8,576 were harassed, according to information gathered by Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China. The harassment included denying practitioners’ children admittance to school, shutting down practitioner-owned businesses, and more.
Additionally, Falun Gong practitioners detained in prisons and labor camps are at risk of being killed for their organs to fuel China’s lucrative transplantation industry, in a practice known as forced organ harvesting. In 2019, an independent tribunal in London concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the Chinese regime had been forcibly removing the organs of prisoners of conscience and that this had been taking place for years “on a significant scale.”
Steel said of the persecution, “Prisoners, organ harvesting, that’s never—in other countries—never heard of.”
Steel has met with family members of victims who had had their organs forcibly removed. “Organs inside of my body are mine; it’s not government’s. Even if [a person is] in prison, you cannot take those away,” Steel said.
The congressional commission’s report cited the case of Cui Fenglan, who was sentenced to 15 years in a detention center for possessing Falun Gong flyers with the words “truthfulness, compassion, tolerance” printed on them.
The report also stated that the CCP is holding about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in extrajudicial mass internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination.
Steel said: “Religious freedom … is the basic freedom that everybody has to have. [In] China, I saw a lot of those churches or temples being burned down or destroyed by the government. That’s not acceptable, because that’s the basic freedom that we have.”
Steel said that while former President Donald Trump’s administration stood up to the CCP, she’s not sure President Joe Biden’s will follow suit.
“Trump did a great job economically pressuring China to try to stop this,” she said. “Hopefully, the Biden administration will not change the route and where we’re going, and he should stick with what’s been done for the last four years.”
Recommendations to Congress
The report made many recommendations to Congress. These included using “available sanction authorities, to hold responsible Chinese officials and other entities complicit in mass internment, forced labor, forced renunciations of faith, and forced sterilizations, forced abortions, and other coercive or violent measures to control family size.”
Another recommendation was to stop goods made with forced labor from entering the United States.
It also called for supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.
“When [the CCP] took Hong Kong over, there is a 50-year agreement, but they already violated that,” she said. “[Hongkongers] want to have freedom; they had freedom. They have to keep their government for the next 50 years. That was the agreement.”
The report stated that the CCP “arrested pro-democracy leaders, prevented journalists from reporting, applied political pressure on the judiciary, and allowed the Hong Kong Police Force to grow increasingly abusive toward non-violent protesters.”
It also recommended ways to prevent the CCP from taking advantage of U.S. openness. “The Chinese government and Communist Party exploit U.S. openness to exert influence over U.S. policy, acquire critical technologies, and transmit disinformation and propaganda to advance the Chinese government’s messages and interests,” it states.
In light of the pandemic, it encouraged working with international bodies “to make clearer obligations for member states and consequences for those that fail to provide timely and transparent information about infectious disease outbreaks.”
The report called on Congress to counter CCP digital authoritarianism, including internet censorship and the use of surveillance and artificial intelligence technology to exert social control over its citizens.
The CCP suppresses the rule of law and persecutes “lawyers by detaining them and revoking their law licenses for their democracy and constitutional-reform advocacy, or for their representation of defendants in politically sensitive cases,” the report stated.
Steel said, “A government is there to just support and make a country prosper, but the Chinese government is always going the other direction.”