A measure putting the U.S. Congress on record as condemning the forced harvesting of organs in China took a big step toward passage as it was unanimously passed out of subcommittee Wednesday afternoon.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told her colleagues at the markup session that House Resolution 281 (H.R. 281), which she helped originate, is concerned with ending state-sponsored organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, who deserve protection.
"Falun Gong practitioners are peaceful, tolerant individuals who should be respected for their beliefs," she said.
Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline whose practitioners follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. On July 20, 1999, then-Chinese Communist Party head Jiang Zemin, after he learned that 1 out of 12 Chinese were practicing Falun Gong, launched a campaign to eradicate the spiritual practice.
In 2006, a witness reported that Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned in China were being murdered for their organs, which were then sold for transplantation.
According to H.R. 281, "In 2006, Canadian researchers David Matas, human rights attorney, and David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, conducted an independent investigation into allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners, [and] concluded that reports of Falun Gong prisoners being killed for their organs was highly probable."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said at the Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific meeting, "Our job is to express principles. The resolution expresses the outrage and values of the American people. These Falun Gong people have been brutalized and murdered for profit, by taking their organs. It doesn't get more ghoulish than this. We need to alert our fellow citizens."
Rohrabacher said he wanted to not only condemn the crime, but to make sure Americans were not unknowingly taking part in it if they or their loved ones traveled to China for an organ transplant.
The committee voted unanimously to add these words to HR 281: "That the House of Representatives--calls on the Government of the People's Republic of China to immediately end the practice of organ harvesting from all prisoners; demands an immediate end to the 14-year persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice by the Communist Party of China, and the immediate release of all Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience."
Attending the meeting were members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations subcommittee, and its Asia and the Pacific subcommittee.
Congress has consistently supported Falun Gong. Organ harvesting was mentioned in H.R. 605, in 2010, which also called upon China to cease its policy of torturing and imprisoning Falun Gong practitioners. H.R. 416 in 2012 condemned the persecution and noted reports of state-sponsored organ harvesting.
This year's H.R. 281 is the first resolution primarily concerned with organ harvesting. It cautions Americans to avoid transplant tourism to China.
Ros-Lehtinen's resolution has attracted co-sponsors from both parties. As of Dec. 11, it had 165 co-sponsors, 84 Republicans and 81 Democrats.
H.R. 281 now goes to the Foreign Affairs Committee for a markup, which in the case of a resolution is usually considered a formality.