On Oct. 6, the Town of Deerpark became the latest local municipality to pass a resolution in support of H.Res. 281. The House bill calls on China to “end the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners, and particularly from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
“We felt it was a very important issue,” Deerpark Supervisor Karl Brabenec said, “because we are human beings, like everyone else, and if there are atrocities such as those occurring in China because of people’s beliefs, that is just unacceptable. This is something that needs to be addressed on a local, national and international level.”
Deerpark is home to Dragon Springs, a 427-acre retreat for Falun Gong refugees and Chinese performance artists that features a temple, auditorium, residence halls, meditation halls, library and classrooms; the development, which began in 2001, currently has a maximum occupancy of just over 300 people – but it’s hard to say exactly how many people Dragon Springs actually serves, because Falun Gong has no formal membership or leaders to speak on their behalf. A number of adherents who live in the greater Orange County area are not part of Dragon Springs.
Several local practitioners of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa – a discipline of slow-movement exercises, controlled breathing and meditation – are engaging in a campaign to educate the public about circumstances in China. In recent months, practitioners from across Orange County have made presentations at municipal meetings in Mount Hope, Otisville, Deerpark, Wawayanda, Newburgh, Mamakating and Middletown, among others. Several towns have called for an end to Falun Gong persecution by the Chinese Communist Party.
Under a crackdown that started in 1999, China has adopted a formal policy of defaming, bankrupting and imprisoning those who refuse to renounce the practice. Millions of Falun Gong members have been persecuted over the last 15 years, said Ted L’Estrange of Otisville, who gave a presentation last month to the Mount Hope Town Board. L’Estrange said he has practiced Falun Gong for the last 13 years and has traveled to China.
Because Falun Gong adherents do not smoke or drink, they are highly sought after as organ donors, L’Estrange said. While held in Chinese prisons and labor camps, they routinely undergo health exams that include blood- and tissue-typing – something other prisoners do not, he said.
During scheduled executions, Falun Gong members’ organs are harvested, intended for foreigners who travel to China specifically to receive transplants, L’Estrange said, citing information provided by the international organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting as well as China analyst and human rights activist Ethan Gutmann, author of the 2014 book, “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem.” It’s been estimated that tens of thousands of organs harvested in this way from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience have been transplanted each year.
As far back as 2006, Canadian human-rights lawyer David Matas and former Cabinet Minister David Kilgour documented these abuses in the book, “Bloody Harvest.” Since that time, a growing international outcry has led to campaigns in numerous countries condemning the Chinese government.
The U.S. House of Representatives introduced its bill in June 2013.
“My neighbors in the Hudson Valley agree that arbitrary arrests, persecution and illegal organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners is reprehensible and abuses basic human rights,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, who is a sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, also called on China “to end this barbaric practice … This resolution seeks a federal investigation into these practices as well as action to prevent the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in China.”
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote.