SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A resolution in the California Senate calling on Congress to investigate human rights abuses against members of a religious group in China has been shelved, and its author believes a letter from the Chinese consulate is to blame.
In July, state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Santee, introduced a resolution calling on President Donald Trump and Congress to investigate the suspected human rights abuses by the Chinese government against members of the religious group Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. The measure moved swiftly through the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote.
Lawmakers then whittled down the initial resolution – five pages of forceful rhetoric against the actions of China – to a single, factual page. But just before the resolution was to be read on the floor, Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, moved the measure to the Senate Rules Committee without a vote or discussion and then shelved it.
De Leon’s decision may have been due to an unsigned letter sent by China’s consulate general in San Francisco, calling Falun Gong an “evil cult.” The letter was received the day before De Leon moved the bill. Neither De Leon's office nor the Chinese consulate returned requests for comment.
“These are not people that are strapping bombs on themselves and blowing themselves up trying to kill others,” Anderson said. “These are people who are focused on meditation through their faith. They have a harmless faith.”
In 2007, Anderson got a resolution passed recognizing Falun Gong and the liberty of the United States to allow freedom of religious expression. The Chinese consulate sent him a letter accusing him of being a terrorist, and banned him from traveling to China.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that utilizes qigong, measured movements and a focus on breathing and meditation to promote health and wellness. Falun Gong differs from traditional qigong in that there is no membership fee, no specified ritual and a greater emphasis on morality.
Congress passed a resolution in 2016 with bipartisan support and drastically more forceful language than Anderson’s recently shelved effort. Minnesota lawmakers passed their own version this week.
“Here in California, we talk about California values,” Anderson said. “If we can’t stand up for those who simply want to meditate and become better people, if we can’t step up for religious liberty and freedom, not just here but around the world, we have failed those values.”
In 1999 – the year Falun Gong was banned in China – an estimated 70 million people embraced the spiritual tenets of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Between 1993 and 1996, however, the Chinese government supported the Falun Gong movement and even made its founder Li Hongzhi a master practitioner.
The Chinese government’s opinion turned starting in 1996, when Li refused to tie Falun Gong to communism and the state. Then in April 1999, approximately 10,000 practitioners peacefully gathered in Beijing to request official recognition. In response, the state declared Falun Gong an illegal “heterodox religion” and rounded up thousands it believed to be leaders of the movement. Those arrested were “re-educated” in labor camps, and many were maimed and killed.
The Chinese government established a special police unit known as the 6-10 Office to hunt down Falun Gong practitioners and spread media campaigns critical of the religion in an effort to dissuade Chinese people from joining.
Over the last 18 years, thousands of Chinese citizens have been arrested and sentenced to re-education training in an effort to eradicate Falun Gong. Those who refuse to part with their beliefs are executed.
Disturbing reports of torture and forced harvesting of organs have led many nations to ban citizens from traveling to China for medical procedures. China denies that any Falun Gong practitioners have been killed and says those who have died did so because they refused to take medicine or accept medical aid.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization both disagree and have condemned the actions of the Chinese government.
A report authored by former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas found that "the source of 41,500 transplants for the six-year period 2000 to 2005 is unexplained" and concluded that "the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centers and 'people's courts,' since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience."
Wait times for organ transplants in China average about two weeks compared to 32 weeks in Canada, despite its smaller voluntary organ donor list.
“I think the question has to be asked why does China have such a grip on your throat that they can bully California Democrat leadership that says that they are for the downtrodden, those being picked on around the world, but when it comes to these people they aren’t willing to stand up against their slaughter,” Anderson said. “It begs the question, why is it that we are so focused on Russia and our elections, but we don’t care about China executing people?”
Anderson has promised to keep turning the screws by attempting to amend every resolution that comes to the floor with the language his resolution. He also planned a peaceful protest at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for Friday morning.
“We are going to challenge them to see if they want to harvest our organs,” Anderson said. “I am not standing down. There will be no peace until there is justice. I am going to be relentless, because if Republicans don’t stand up to Democratic leadership that refuses to acknowledge genocide, who will?”
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