Clemson's Falun Dafa Club Shares a History That's "Hard To Believe"

Hard To Believe was successfully screened at Clemson University on November 16. The campus newspaper, Tiger News, reported the event and post-screening discussion.  

(Image: Clemson Falun Dafa club)

     "Monday night in Cooper Library, members of the Falun Dafa club invited students and community members to a screening of "Hard To Believe", a documentary on the organ harvesting of Falun Dafa practitioners in China. The documentary looks at the history of persecution, torture and political rebellion in China. It is primarily based on a seven-year investigation by Ethan Gutmann, published in his 2014 book, "The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem."

     These "dissidents" are practitioners of Falun Dafa. Also called Falun Gong, this spiritual practice is "a traditional Chinese self-cultivation practice that improves mental and physical wellness through a series of easy-to-learn exercises, meditation and the development of one's 'heart-mind nature'," according to the Clemson Falun Dafa's website. The three central beliefs of the practice are "Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance", and although it has been banned by the Communist Party and labeled a "cult", no violent acts have been committed in its name.

     Falun Dafa expanded to over 100 million practitioners in the seven years following its creation in 1992. In 1999, a crackdown on Falun Dafa practitioners began in response to a protest against the Chinese government requesting recognition and an end to persecution, and resulted in the imprisonment of millions and the expansion of China's labor camp system. 

     Huili Li, who has lived in the U.S. for three years while pursuing a doctorate in economics at Clemson, said her friends have been "sent to jail, brainwashing centers and labor camps by Chinese Communist Party."

     Li described two times her home in China was raided by police.

     Another member of the Falun Dafa Club, who requested to remain anonymous out of concern for family still living in China, also shared her story. She recounted the beginning of the Communist campaign to "slander Falun Gong." The persecution and harassment of practitioners made her feel "miserable and voiceless." Her closest friend was among those jailed for her beliefs, and she explained that the prisoners are often subjected to "heavy labor, sleep deprivation, electric batons" and sexual assault. Others become victims of organ harvesting.

     In "Hard To Believe", interviewed victims claimed that they would be given physical exams and then tortured in jail, in order to find matches for organs in demand. it is legal in China to harvest organs from prisoners who have received the death sentence once they are executed -- this is how the Chinese government explains the availability of organs for transplant in the hospital system. The documentary claims that the short wait time for an organ transplant in China -- only one or two weeks -- implying that organs are available on demand from political prisoners, not just those on death row.

     In Gutmann's book, he approximates that 65,000 Falun Dafa practitioners were harvested for their organs between 2000 and 2008.

     Evidence provided in a report published by Canadian attorneys, David Kilgour and David Matas, was circumstantial, though it supports the Falun Dafa's claims of organ harvesting and drew Western attention to the issue.

     According to Li and the documentary, Israel, Taiwan and Canada have made laws to control transplant tourism, but the U.S. has taken no preventative measures. An attempt to address this issue was a bill introduced to Congress in 2013. According to the legislative record available on the Congress.gov website, this bill purported to be "expressing concern over persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience, in the People's Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs, and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups", but it never came to the House floor. There was also a petition started by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) that asked the U.N. to investigate organ harvesting in China. it reached 1.5 million signatures, but was dismissed.

     The stories of Falun Gong practitioners about fear, torture and injustice are numerous and come from closer to home than might be expected. Li said many people don't know about this massive human rights concern because of the limitations put in place by the Chinese government and because of humans' natural indifference to problems that don't have direct personal effects. Li asked everyone in attendance Monday night to sign an online petition to be sent to the U.N. She provided flyers and links to the online petition. She also passed around letters to be sent to representatives in Congress to push a new resolution through saying, "I always believe that freedom will prevail," Li said."