More than a thousand Falun Gong practitioners and supporters gathered on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a demonstration Thursday to condemn religious persecution in China.
Speakers included members of Congress such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), as well as leaders of human rights and religious freedom organizations such as Freedom House and Jubilee Campaign.
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Supporters held photographs of family members who suffered persecution and torture.
"A majority of people here are personally and deeply affected by the overall situation of China and are concerned about their brothers and sisters," Freedom House president Mark Lagon said.
Falun Gong is a traditional spiritual practice belonging to the Buddhist family of religious practices. Despite its peaceful nature, former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin viewed the practice’s popularity and encouragement of independent thought as a threat to his power.
The Chinese Communist Party in July 1999 banned Falun Gong, which millions had practiced freely for years.
"I lived in China and was a teacher in 1999," said Albert Roman, a journalist. "I saw people practicing in every park, it was hugely popular. I saw with my own eyes that these are good people. I had a student who practiced and I still don’t know what happened to him, if he’s even alive."
Demonstrators accused the Chinese Communist regime of pillaging organs from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience.
"In a hurry, China has tried to create an organ donation system. There is no waiting time, no system—it’s deeply problematic. At least 90 percent of the organs are not accredited for," Roman said.
Last month saw the unanimous passage in the House of Representatives of a bill condemning organ-harvesting practices in China. The bill amends the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and requires more diplomatic action to stop organ trafficking. It also requires reporting on the issue by the State Department. The bill is now in the Senate.
"What will it take for United States Senate to act? To pass this important bill to stop organ trafficking as their colleagues in the House did?" Faith J. H. McDonnell, director of Religious Liberty Programs, said. "Chinese citizens are being sacrificed for their organs—citizens who oppose the Chinese Communist regime. What will it take for the world to stop this evil practice?"