Forty-nine Virginia state lawmakers recently drafted a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted faith group Falun Gong in China.
This July marked 21 years of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s suppression of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice with meditative exercises and moral teachings based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
First introduced in China in May 1992, the practice grew in popularity. By 1999, 100 million people in China—or about one in 13 Chinese—were practicing Falun Gong, according to Chinese state reports.
Then-head of the CCP Jiang Zemin launched a brutal persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, with authorities rounding up practitioners and detaining them inside prisons, jails, and brainwashing centers. Thousands have since died under torture, according to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that documents the persecution.
The lawmakers described in the letter the torture methods used by authorities, as described by Falun Gong survivors currently residing in Virginia.
“Left in death bed with four limbs tied.” “Handcuffed and hung in painful position.” “Violently force-fed.” “High-voltage electric shock.” “Not allowed to sleep for three days,” the letter recounted.
The letter was signed by 12 Virginia state senators and 37 Virginia state delegates, representing about 35 percent of the state’s legislature.
David Bulova, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 37th House District—the heart of Fairfax, Virginia—explained that he was compelled to take action after meeting with local practitioners.
“Meeting…[them] made it very, very real, and made me want to actually do something in order to be able to draw attention to the situation,” Bulova said.
He added that he and his colleagues hoped to “use the considerable moral and economic forces in order to be able to draw attention and demand changes,” and planned to send the letter to the Virginia governor and health commissioner as well.
In the letter, the lawmakers urged: “We ask for your [Pompeo’s] leadership, and the considerable leverage of the United States, to ensure that next year we are not observing 22 years of persecution.”
Ma Chunmei, 51-year-old, is from northeast China’s Jilin Province, and she experienced the torture the delegate’s letter talks about. She escaped from her home country in 2006 and lives in Virginia now.
Ma said she almost died several times in Chinese labor camps from 1999 to 2006.
She testified on Capitol Hill on May 26, 2016: “They [prison guards] tied my four limbs on an iron bed, pushed a rubber tube into my stomach to forcibly feed me salty corn paste in November 1999. They intentionally pushed and pulled the rubber tube which was very painful. My body reacted naturally and threw out the corn paste, which was mixed with blood.”
Ma said she was abducted by security four times and sent to a labor camp twice. She was tortured by electric shock batons, beatings, being suspended by handcuffs, the “death bed” (all four limbs are stretched out to the four corners of an icy-cold metal bed) for three days, brutal forced feeding, and injections with poisonous drugs.
“When I was tied upon the death bed, the pain was beyond the limit that my body could bear. When I was released after being tied there three days, I was paralyzed and like a dead person,” Ma said.
The authorities forced Ma’s husband to divorce her, and she lost custody of her son and ownership of the family business.
The letter also highlighted allegations that forced organ harvesting was occurring in China, with prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong practitioners, as the source of organs.
The lawmakers called for the U.S. government to increase “education efforts” among Americans so as to “reduce the demand for this immoral practice.”
“Organ transplants are a marvel of science and can be a selfless gesture that gives the gift of life. However, organ transplants should never be conducted under force or duress,” the letter stated.
In June 2019, an independent people’s tribunal in London concluded, after a yearlong investigation, that forced organ harvesting has taken place in China for years “on a significant scale,” with Falun Gong practitioners as the main source of organs. In its final judgment in March, the tribunal said this human rights crime was still in practice, stating that the “tragically unchecked action allowed many people to die horribly and unnecessarily.”
Allegations first emerged in 2006, when a human rights group and two witnesses from China described the practice within the country’s concentration camps.
Since then, independent researchers have published reports with more evidence of organ harvesting taking place in China.
Most recently, transplant ethics experts raised concerns about the swiftness in a Chinese hospital’s procurement of organs to conduct lung transplant surgery on patients whose lungs were damaged by COVID-19.