The United States has called on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to immediately end its “depraved abuse and mistreatment” of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
“Twenty-one years of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners is far too long, and it must end,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a rare statement by a top administration official about the repression.
“Extensive evidence shows the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government continues to repress and abuse this community to this day, including reported torture of Falun Gong practitioners and detention of thousands,” he said on July 20, the 21st anniversary of the start of Beijing’s persecution campaign.
Pompeo also demanded that the Chinese regime release imprisoned adherents of Falun Gong and account for the whereabouts of missing practitioners.
His comments add to those of about 30 U.S. lawmakers and officials who issued statements expressing solidarity with Falun Gong practitioners on the anniversary. Hundreds of lawmakers around the world also condemned the regime’s brutal suppression.
U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said he talked to Falun Gong representatives on July 20 about Beijing’s ongoing persecution.
“I’m inspired by Falun Gong practitioners’ perseverance, while under threat from PRC government pressure to renounce their beliefs,” Brownback wrote in a tweet.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that includes meditative exercises and a set of moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice spread widely in China, with at least 70 million people practicing by the end of the 1990s, according to official Chinese estimates at the time.
On July 20, 1999, Falun Gong practitioners in China found themselves the targets for persecution when the CCP deemed Falun Gong’s popularity a threat to its rule and banned the practice. Adherents have since been subjected to harassment, detention, and torture in an effort to coerce them into giving up their beliefs. Millions have been detained, according to estimates by the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC). More than 4,000 are confirmed to have died from torture, according to Minghui.org, an online clearinghouse for information about the persecution of Falun Gong, although this is likely to be an understatement of the real death toll given the difficulty of obtaining sensitive information from China.
“Since 1999, the Communist Party of China (CCP) has sought to eradicate Falun Gong, a spiritual practice originating in China, and its peaceful practitioners and human rights defenders who have fought for their right to practice their beliefs,” Pompeo said.
The secretary described the story of Zhang Yuhua, a Falun Gong adherent who survived detention in China. Pompeo welcomed her last year at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington hosted by the department.
“After surviving what she described as torture while in a labor camp and a prison in China, she advocates on behalf of her imprisoned husband, Ma Zhenyu, who has endured months of torture because he refuses to renounce his Falun Gong beliefs,” he said.
Zhang was repeatedly imprisoned and suffered torture in China for a combined period of 7 1/2 years before escaping to the United States in 2015.
She was among 27 survivors of religious persecution to meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last July. Zhang told Trump about the plight of her husband, imploring the president to take action. She feared Ma would have his organs harvested by the communist regime.
“Forced organ harvesting still exists, so we should take action,” Zhang said at the time. “Words don’t work.”
Evidence of this grisly practice has mounted since allegations first emerged in 2006. An independent people’s tribunal in 2019, after a yearlong investigation, found beyond a reasonable doubt that the CCP has killed—and continues to kill—imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners for their organs for sale on the transplant market.
FDIC spokesperson Zhang Erping applauded the United States’ support for the group’s “cause for freedom of conscience, association, and expression.”
“His [Pompeo] press statement and longstanding support will inspire tens of millions of Chinese people to continue their struggle for freedoms,” Zhang said in a statement.
“We call on the international community to follow America’s lead and help end this two-decade-long, horrific persecution of Falun Gong in China.”