The State Department Should Recognize China’s Genocide Against Falun Gong

July 20, 2021 Updated: July 20, 2021


Secretary of State Antony Blinken should promptly act to include Falun Gong in the department’s genocide determination citing China. New evidence, deemed credible by a dozen official U.N. human rights experts from various parts of the world, supports the finding that Beijing is extrajudicially putting to death large numbers of Falun Gong prisoners—as well as some Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and house Christians—in a depraved, if efficient, scheme to excise and sell their body organs.

This is not only unethical, but also threatens to upend the entire international human rights order. World pressure must be brought to bear to stop these hideous killings and persecution, and to stop organ harvesting for an “on-demand” transplant tourism industry.

In January, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determined that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been committing genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang—a determination that Blinken affirmed soon afterward.

Another Chinese community, Falun Gong, an offshoot of Buddhism comprising practitioners mainly from the majority Han ethnic group, is shown to be facing a genocidal threat. Two decades ago, Beijing banned Falun Gong as an “evil cult” and set out to eliminate it. Mounting evidence from a variety of respected sources leads to the irrefutable conclusion that Beijing is working to physically destroy part or all of Falun Gong. This meets the definition of genocide under international law.

Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi as a mind-body practice of spiritual exercises and meditation that was reported to have quickly drawn at least 70 million practitioners, according to the government, and up to 100 million by other estimates. The CCP, whose own membership was notably smaller, saw the popular group and its motto, “truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance,” as an ideological challenge beyond its control. In 1999, it banned Falun Gong and launched an unrelenting campaign of persecution against it.

Some practitioners were imprisoned and given long sentences; others were detained in secret “black jails,” or psychiatric institutions. Many were brutally tortured, and some reportedly disappeared after arrest. The practice’s public presence, typically of groups performing slow-moving exercises in parks, was crushed. Around the same time, Chinese doctors began performing organ transplants, and within a few years, stories began circulating that Chinese officials were excising vital organs for transplant from death row prisoners—and Falun Gong prisoners of conscience—to sell to domestic and foreign patients at the burgeoning number of Chinese transplant hospitals.

As researcher Matthew Robertson documents in a Jamestown Foundation report, Beijing initially denied these accusations, then in April 2006 backtracked, stating that death-row prisoners were in fact a source for organs. Robertson marshals compelling evidence that Falun Gong detainees are among the victims. For example, he writes:

“There is an extensive catalogue of telephone calls made to Chinese transplant hospitals by investigators outside China posing as potential patients, relatives of patients, and doctors. These investigators have elicited admissions from nurses and doctors that organs are available on demand. In a number of these calls, hospital personnel have stated that the organs come from practitioners of Falun Gong.”

Robertson documents that transplant medical personnel and the CCP cadre persecuting Falun Gong are sometimes the very same person. He cites Dr. Zheng Shusen, a leading liver surgeon and vice-president of the China Medical Association, who advertises at the private hospital he and his wife founded, “a specialty in short-notice, emergency organ transplants.” Until 2017, Zheng also chaired the anti-Falun Gong Zhejiang Provincial Anti-Cult Association and, in his preface to a 2009 book, he wrote that Falun Gong is an “evil religion,” a “virus,” and a “cancer.”

Kilgour and Matas
Former Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour (R) presents a revised report about forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, while report co-author and international human rights lawyer David Matas looks on, in a file photo. (Matt Hildebrand/The Epoch Times)

In a series of detailed studies between 2006 and 2017, former Canadian Cabinet minister David Kilgour and other experts David Matas and Ethan Gutmann concluded that “the source for most of the massive volume of organs for transplants is the killing of innocents: Uyghurs, Tibetans, House Christians and primarily, practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong.”  Throughout the past 15 years, Beijing has strenuously denied such findings and created a cloud of controversy over them through an aggressive propaganda campaign. Among other things, it created and manipulated the transplant task force at the World Health Organization, as Robertson documented—the same body accused of being deceived by China early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A U.N. press release on June 14 finally puts to rest any lingering controversy. Stating that they were “extremely alarmed,” 12 leading U.N. human rights experts—on torture, religious freedom, arbitrary detentions, and other relevant areas—cited “credible information” that China harvests body organs as a punishment targeting specific ethnic, linguistic, or religious minorities, including Falun Gong. According to the release, these minority detainees are reported to be subjected to blood tests and ultrasound exams, while other detainees are not. The results go into a “living organ sources” database that is used for matches, as demand dictates. This press statement is distinctive in that it reflects a consensus by a significant group of independent U.N. experts and was issued apart from any directive.

This alarm from the United Nations should shock our collective conscience, too. The State Department recently called for China to “cease its campaign against Falun Gong practitioners and release those imprisoned due to their beliefs,” but without pressure, its plea will fall on deaf ears.

Blinken should immediately direct his Department of Global Criminal Justice to review the U.N. experts’ findings and the extensive published reporting to make a Falun Gong genocide determination, along with appropriate sanctions. Congress should pass its own genocide resolution and a pending bipartisan bill to combat forced organ harvesting, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

If we don’t act, China will be ushering in a “brave new world” that’s more ghastly than even Aldous Huxley’s imagined dystopia.

Nina Shea is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Nina Shea
Nina Shea
Nina Shea is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom. For twelve years, she served as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. An international human-rights lawyer for over thirty years, Ms. Shea undertakes scholarship and recommends policies for the advancement of individual religious freedom and other human rights in U.S. foreign policy. She advocates extensively in defense of those persecuted for their religious beliefs and identities and on behalf of diplomatic measures to end religious repression and violence abroad, whether from state actors or extremist groups.