‘When religious freedom is taken away from people, political freedom soon follows,’ the speaker said.
WASHINGTON—House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Jan. 31 highlighted concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s forced organ harvesting of faith adherents, identifying the regime as among “some of the most repressive in the world” for its human rights abuses.
“Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners are placed in forced labor camps, and they have their organs harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Johnson said during a speech at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington.
He also highlighted Beijing’s “genocidal campaign of forced sterilization, forced detention, and reeducation” against Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Such a regime also has “the least to offer their citizens in terms of economic prosperity and social mobility, and it’s no surprise, because if you’re going to restrict and torment people for their religious beliefs, it’s going to be a tyrannical regime,” he said.
State-sanctioned forced organ harvesting in China—the act of removing the organs of nonconsenting individuals for sale—first gained the international spotlight in 2006, when whistleblowers spoke out to international investigators and The Epoch Times about the targeting of imprisoned adherents of the persecuted faith group Falun Gong, who were held in underground facilities expressly designated for that purpose.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice involving meditative exercises and moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In the 1990s, the practice grew by word of mouth to reach as many as 100 million adherents in China by 1999.
The Chinese Communist Party, perceiving the practice’s popularity as a threat to the communist regime’s grip on power, launched a sweeping repression campaign in 1999, vowing to eliminate Falun Gong and its believers.
The London-based China Tribunal in 2019 concluded that forced organ harvesting had been taking place in the country on a “significant scale.” While Falun Gong practitioners were the primary target group, the tribunal found that other suppressed religious communities, such as Tibetans and Uyghurs, are also victims.
Mr. Johnson, in his speech, highlighted religious freedom as a foundational human right.
“America was founded on the ideal of religious freedom, and a belief that every single person has inalienable rights,” he said.
“When religious freedom is taken away from people, political freedom soon follows. We know that that is the lesson of history. James Madison once said it is conscience that is the most sacred of all property. So if governments shouldn’t steal your property, then they shouldn’t steal your conscience.”
‘A Bill Whose Time Has Come’
At the summit, several current and former officials on religious affairs called on the United States to step up its efforts to combat the Chinese regime’s grisly practice.
“Just think about what we’re talking about here—forced organ harvesting. You’re taking somebody’s organs from them and, in all likelihood, killing them. This is completely medieval,” Sam Brownback, who served as the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom from 2018 to 2021, told The Epoch Times on Jan. 30.
Internationally, backlash has also grown in response to the abuses.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who led the House anti-forced organ harvesting bill, said he was “very frustrated” to see the bill sitting in the Senate for nearly a year without the benefit of a vote.
“It’s a bill whose time has come,” Mr. Smith told The Epoch Times at the summit on Jan. 30.
China’s state-sanctioned organ harvesting supplies its billion-dollar transplantation industry. The regime even has designated hospitals for performing organ transplant surgeries on high-level officials.
“If Xi Jinping tomorrow needs a new liver, he’ll get a Falun Gong practitioner or some others, maybe a Uyghur,” said Mr. Smith, referring to the Chinese communist leader.
“I mean, isn’t that outrageous—the very people he persecutes are becoming the source of organs? This is right out of Nazi Germany.”
About a year ago, Mr. Smith was in the hospital to receive some treatments.
Lying on the hospital bed, he was struck by the contrast between him and the untold number of prisoners of conscience in China at risk of having their organs taken.
“In my case, they’re curing me; in their case, they’re stealing their organs,” he said. “It just hit me with outrage and sorrow at the same time: How dare they do that to another human being?”
The deadly consequences involved are one reason why Mr. Smith wants to see this bill through.
“We’re going to get this bill passed, and I mean that. It’s a matter of when and not if,” he said. “I never give up on a bill, and this bill is so important.”