Lawmaker Urges State Department to Make Forced Organ Harvesting Part of US–China Talks

WASHINGTON—The Chinese Communist Party’s practice of harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience should be on the U.S. agenda whenever it holds talks with Chinese officials, according to Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).

Mr. Zinke, who sits on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), said the Party’s forced organ harvesting is “extraordinarily concerning.”

“The entire world ought to be horrified at such practices,” he told The Epoch Times, adding that Congress should “push the State Department to bring it up in person and have answers.”

“We have a relationship with China. I think China should know that’s one of our key concerns.” The issue should “absolutely” be on the agenda in the U.S.–China talks, he said.

The Montana Republican made the remarks on Feb. 1 after a CECC hearing to assess the recent U.N. review of China’s human rights record, which CECC Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said didn’t give valid criticism of “the airing that it deserves.”

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. Since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a persecution campaign to eliminate the practice and its adherents.

The London-based China Tribunal in 2019 concluded that forced organ harvesting had taken place in China for years “on a significant scale,” with Falun Gong practitioners being the “principal source” of human organs.

Chinese hospitals offer extremely short waiting times for matching organs. According to a 2023 report by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), in 2016, a Canadian citizen received an organ transplant in China within three days. In 2020, a 24-year-old patient flew to China from Japan and was provided four matching hearts in 10 days.

“The international community will need to decide if the issue of complicity to genocide is applicable, and then inform and prevent potential transplant tourists from going to China for transplantation purposes,” the DAFOH report reads.

Texas became the first U.S. state to pass a law countering the Chinese regime’s grisly practice. It’s now illegal in Texas for health insurance providers to fund organ transplants that take place in China or any other country known to have been involved in forced organ harvesting.

State Department officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Legislation

The Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House in March 2023, proposes criminal penalties designed to hold the CCP accountable. The Senate version (S.761) of the House bill hasn’t advanced since it was introduced.

Mr. Smith, who introduced the House bill (H.R. 1154), has expressed frustration to see the bill sitting in the Senate and has asked senators to mark it up.

“Let’s get it to the president. We worked with the State Department; they had some initial concerns,” Mr. Smith said. “And now, we have a bill that I believe, based on their input, will be signed.”

On Jan. 31, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called out the CCP for its organ harvesting from practitioners of Falun Gong and Tibetans, in a speech at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington.

Mr. Smith said he’s glad to see the attention on the issue.

“We were totally in solidarity with standing with those who are having their organs stolen from them,” he told NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. “The Chinese Communist Party, when that bill passed, put out strong statements denying every bit of it—and again, another lie.”

Political Prisoner List

In the past two decades, Western nations and firms have provided money and technology to the Chinese regime despite its human rights abuses, arguing that economic growth will help the country liberalize.

“I think we have aided and abetted a dictatorship to repress, jail, torture, and kill,” Mr. Smith told The Epoch Times. “What they do is, they take all of that technology, and it becomes a tool of repression. And now, they’re using high tech to hunt the best and the bravest.”

Prior to the U.S.–Chinasummitin San Francisco in November, Mr. Smith and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), co-chair of the CECC, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to discuss with CCP leader Xi Jinpinga list of political prisoners, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hongkongers, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and Chinese human rights defenders.

Falun Gong practitioners hold up a banner calling on China to end its state-sanctioned practice of forced organ harvesting, in San Francisco on Nov. 14, 2023. (Zhou Rong/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners hold up a banner calling on China to end its state-sanctioned practice of forced organ harvesting, in San Francisco on Nov. 14, 2023. (Zhou Rong/The Epoch Times)

During the Feb. 1 hearing, Mr. Smith reiterated the importance of pressing CCP officials on the status of known political prisoners.

“Anyone who has interlocutors with Chinese officials on any issue, from environmental to trade, especially trade, list the prisoners, [ask about the victims] by name. ‘Why is this person being tortured?’” he said.

“Stop looking the other way, because they are enabling the cruelty of cruelties. Silence means you’re OK with it. You’ve got to speak up.”

The CECC maintains a political prisoner database, which is vetted “very meticulously,” Mr. Smith said.

“When somebody gets out, it has a transformative impact,” he said.

The New Jersey Republican hopes President Biden will take up the issue.

“Don’t do it as a matter of obligation; do a check in the box. Say, ‘This matters to us. Free these people. Stop it or else there are consequences,’” he said.

Rana Siu Inboden, a senior fellow with the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas–Austin, says many countries and Western companies have kowtowed to the Chinese regime for decades. “I don’t think that the China market is worth giving up our principle,” she told The Epoch Times.

If companies won’t do the right thing, the prisoner list could serve to bring some pressure, she added.

“The CECC database is so full now,” Ms. Inboden said. “Even if we only talked about maybe a dozen names, there’s literally thousands of people who should have been released.”

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and CEO of the UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch, told The Epoch Times that the Biden administration “should not be fooled into the idea that they will achieve anything by kowtowing to China.”

Just the opposite, “the Chinese authorities are more likely to respect them when they stand up for their values and beliefs,” he said.

Naming political prisoners, “as many as we can,” could have “a positive effect even for other prisoners who aren’t named,” Mr. Rogers said, adding that Chinese authorities would know that the international community is watching.

“There’s nothing to be lost really by doing that.”

 

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