U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a press conference on June 21st to highlight the State Department’s annual report on global religious freedom. He criticized the Chinese government for its continued persecution of religious and spiritual adherents saying, “The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding.”
Pompeo hosted the Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC July 16th-18th. The conference included 1,000 civil society and religious leaders and more than 100 foreign delegations. In his opening remarks, Pompeo said, “We’ve got folks from civil society and from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Falun Gong, and other secular backgrounds.”
Coinciding with the Ministerial was the 20th anniversary of the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a spiritual self-cultivation discipline of the Buddha school that spread exponentially in China garnering over 70 million practitioners in 7 years. Since the persecution began July 20 1999, Falun Dafa has gone on to spread to over 100 countries around the world.
To mark the 20th anniversary and the second Ministerial conference the Falun Dafa Information Center published a report detailing the persecution suffered by Falun Gong practitioners including unlawful incarceration, forced labor, brainwashing, torture and live organ harvesting.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi participated in a panel discussion at the Ministerial conference where she said that given China’s economic clout, the huge scale of the violations of religious liberty in the country is a “challenge to the conscience of the world.” She added, “Unless we’re willing to speak out against human rights and violations of religious freedom in China, we lose all moral authority to talk about it any other place in the world.”
In a side event to the Ministerial held at the National Press Club, the China Organ Harvest Research Center presented updated evidence on China’s unethical transplant practice of using prisoners of conscience as non-consenting organ donors. The report’s authors believe that “Studying the genocide of Falun Gong provides a lens through which the world can understand the persecution of other faiths in China. Addressing the persecution of Falun Gong is a crucial step towards ending religious persecution in China and the atrocities being committed against humanity and morality itself.”
To further promote the cause of religious freedom, President Trump met with twenty-seven victims of religious persecution in the oval office on July 19th. Ms. Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner who escaped to the United States in 2015, told the President that her husband remains imprisoned in China for his faith and that “he could be killed for his organs like an unknown number of Falun Gong practitioners have been.” While in China, Ms. Zhang, now 59, was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured for a combined period of seven and a half years for refusing to renounce her faith.