By William Murray
Each year I am invited, along with many members of Congress, to speak at a gathering on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol facing the Mall and the Washington Monument. The organizers of the rally are from the Falun Gong and are attempting to call attention to the brutal treatment of members of their group by the Chinese Communist Party, which sees them as a threat.
The Falun Gong are not related to any known world faith, and most Christian leaders would refer to them as a cult because of their belief system. I do not speak at the annual event to endorse the spiritual beliefs of the Falun Gong, but rather to help bring attention to the general lack of religious freedom, which has become worse under China’s new president.
China today is a society that has vast amounts of personal freedom in some areas, yet there is total repression of individual expression in others. While an entrepreneur can start up a business in virtually any area of the nation and in almost any industry, permission to open a place of worship or to expand an existing place of worship is nearly impossible without state control. In many instances, construction of churches is banned or there is actual destruction of places of worship such as the large Protestant mega-church in Zhejiang. Eighteen churches have been destroyed in China so far this year, most recently one in Ningbo.
In 2013 I traveled for nearly a month in China on business and conducted research. Virtually everyone in China has a smartphone and communications, and because of the size of the population it is virtually impossible for the government to monitor them all. Many of those I spoke with were openly critical of the Communist Party of China, particularly its past. My translators and those I interviewed had no kind words to say about the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward, often referring to these periods as a disaster for the nation. There were not many kind words for the practices of current party leaders, either.
I spoke with many, including university professors, who were critical of the lack of religious freedom. Openness about their opposition to repression of non-state churches and to such policies as the one child laws surprised me.
However, when I brought up the subject of the repression of the Falun Gong, I was met with silence. The other subject no one wanted to speak about was organ harvesting. Most professed to know nothing about the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners in China, despite vast availability of stories on the Internet. These two subjects – which all those I spoke with refused to discuss – are very much related. So closely related are they that in the U.S. House, H. Res. 281, on the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and others in China, is cosponsored by 176 members, including 90 Republicans and 86 Democrats so far.
There are at least 10,000 organ transplants per year in China, and former Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu admitted publicly that more than 90 percent of transplant organs are extracted from executed prisoners in China.
It is a fact that members of the Falun Gong who have committed no crime other than participating in their faith have been imprisoned and executed for their organs simply because their tissue matched someone (often a wealthy Westerner) who was willing to pay for their organs. In the name of righteousness and for the sake of human dignity, this must stop. The world should be outraged.
Faced with violent jihad from Islamic extremists in the western regions of China, the government responds with the repression of peaceful religious communities. No member of the Falun Gong has participated in mass murders or bombings, as have members of the Turkistan Islamic Party. Yet the repression of the Falun Gong exceeds that of radical Islamist groups, as if the Communist Party of China admits that it fears a peaceful religion more than violent secessionists.
The Communist Party of China is spending more time and effort on the suppression of unregistered Christian churches and the Falun Gong than on the suppression of groups promoting the violent jihad that has brought death to many places such as Tiananmen Square.
America must send a clear message to the Communist Party of China: Defend your nation against enemies that are real, rather than destroying churches and jailing the defenseless and the peace-loving simply because of their faith.
The vicious Islamic revolt in western China has brought terrorist acts to the heart of Beijing. The fact that China is fighting the same terrorists funded from Pakistan that we are fighting in Afghanistan, shows that their efforts to repress Christians and other peaceful groups in the rest of the nation are misguided and a waste of resources.
It is very important to note that some of the churches that have been destroyed since China’s new president, Xi Jinping, took over in 2013 are “official” churches that have in fact registered with the government. The huge Sanjiang mega-church destroyed in April was a registered church that used the official “Patriotic Bible.” It is believed that under the previous president, Hu Jintao, churches were not targeted to the degree they are now because his sister was a Christian. There is no evidence he had a sister who was a Christian, other than word of mouth among Chinese Christians. In any case, now, under President Xi, the situation is worse.
Rather than continuing to torture Israel with demands of surrender to Islamic militants, Secretary of State John Kerry should be telling Chinese leaders to fight Islamic militants rather that dealing punishing blows to those peacefully following their religious beliefs.
William J. Murray is the chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition and the author of seven books including “My Life Without God,” which chronicles his early life in the home of destructive atheist and Marxist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Having lived the Marxist and the Ayn Rand lifestyle, he has a unique perspective on religion and politics.