Senator Anderson speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)Senator Anderson speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

SAN FRANCISCO—A rally was held outside the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco on the morning of Sept. 8 to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature.

The rally was sparked by a letter sent from the Consulate to all members of the California Senate that warned that support of SJR 10—a resolution sponsored by Senator Joel Anderson that condemns the Chinese Communist Party for its ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners—would harm relations between the two governments.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice in the Buddhist tradition.  It consists of living according the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and performing gentle, meditative exercises.

In 1999 there were 70 million people practicing Falun Gong in China, according to a survey done by the Chinese state, or 100 million, according to Falun Gong practitioners.  In July 1999, however, then-Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin banned the peaceful practice and enlisted the nation’s entire security apparatus, media, and judiciary to participate in a massive persecution campaign that continues to this day.

Falun Gong practitioners hold banners in front of the San Francisco Chinese consulate during a rally to protest the Chinese regime's interference in California's legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Falun Gong practitioners hold banners in front of the San Francisco Chinese consulate during a rally to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Organ Harvesting

The most disturbing element in this brutal campaign is the compelling evidence that shows Falun Data prisoners of conscience are murdered to supply organs for transplantation in China.

The China Organ Harvesting Research Center reports, “China now performs more organ transplants than any other country in the world, despite having few donations.” The Center asks where all of these organs come from.

In 2016 former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia/Pacific) David Kilgour, investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, and international human rights lawyer David Matas released “Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update,” which offers “a meticulous examination of the transplant programs of hundreds of hospitals in China, drawing on media reports, official propaganda, medical journals, hospital websites and a vast amount of deleted websites found in archive”, according to the report’s website.

The report shows that the Chinese regime is performing 60,000 to 100,000 transplants per year as opposed to 10,000 per year (the Chinese claim). The Chinese regime has engaged “in the mass killings of innocents, primarily practitioners of the spiritually‑based set of exercises, Falun Gong, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and select House Christians, in order to obtain organs for transplants.”

Also in 2016 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 343, “Expressing concern regarding 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 and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”

Pulling the Resolution

SJR 10 takes note of H. Res. 343 and condemns the Chinese Government “for any government-sanctioned persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in the People’s Republic of China.” With both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, it was unanimously approved last week by the Judiciary Committee. The next step should have been a vote on the Senate Floor.

Unexpectedly, the Senate voted to refer SJR 10 back to the Rules Committee-essentially blocking it from coming to a vote in the Senate.

Speaking at the rally, Senator Anderson blamed the shelving of his bill on a “a vicious letter sent by the Chinese Consulate to discredit Falun Gong Practitioners.” The letter threatened that SJR 10 “may deeply damage the cooperative relations between the State of California and China.”

Senator Anderson speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime's interference in California's legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Senator Anderson speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Dated Sept. 1, the letter was sent to all California Senators the day after 200 human rights activists gathered at the State Capitol to support the unanimous approval of SJR 10 by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The same day this letter was received, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon moved to pull the resolution from the floor.

Phone calls and emails from the Epoch Times to Jonathan Underland, press secretary to Senator De Leon, asking for the Senator’s comments about this issue were not returned.

Outraged that his bill was not allowed even to be heard, at the rally on Friday Senator Anderson decried this “alarming interference with our legislative process by a foreign power has silenced the voice of human rights.”

Other states—Minnesota, Illinois, and Pennsylvania—have each passed resolutions similar to SJR 10 within the past few years.

Against Genocide

Senator Anderson said, “We should stand together against genocide. This is not a party issue, it’s a human rights issue.”

Speaking on the Senate floor every day the week of Sept. 4-8, he attempted to attach SJR 10 to other measures, including a similar bill that condemns the Chechnya government’s persecution of the LGBT community. He was not alone in this attempt. Noting California’s long history of showing support for human rights resolutions, Senator Stone, a Republican from Temecula, urged his colleagues to let SJR 10 be heard.

“We commonly do resolutions in support of human rights.  I think that this is a missed opportunity—one that makes us look hypocritical—that murder in one sense is justified as opposed to murder in another,” Stone said on the Senate floor.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears.  SJR 10 remained shelved.

To explain the apparent hypocrisy of the California Senate’s condemning persecution of citizens in Checnya, but not in China, Anderson believes one has to follow the timeline:

  1. With bi-partisan support, SJR 10 passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously.
  2. A threatening letter was received from the Chinese Consulate.
  3. The resolution is shelved without ever being heard on the Senate floor.

Chinese Regime Threats

Threats and intimidation from the Chinese regime to American politicians are not new.

The U.S. Congress passed two resolutions—H Con ResR 188 in 2002 and H Con ResR 304 in 2004—that called for the Attorney General to investigate reports of Chinese Consular officials illegal acts of attempting to intimidate elected officials who showed support for Falun Gong practitioners. The resolutions also urged local governments to report to Congress, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State any incidents of pressure or harassment by Chinese agents.

Activities coordinator, Alan Huang speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime's interference in California's legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Activities coordinator, Alan Huang speaks in front of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during a rally to protest the Chinese regime’s interference in California’s legislature, on Sept 8, 2017 (Lear Zhou/Epoch Times)

Outraged that the Chinese Government’s power to suppress free speech extends beyond its own borders to California’s Senate Leadership, Senator Anderson has vowed to continue pleading for his bill until it is allowed to be heard.

In an appeal to his colleagues’ consciences, he said: “We should be standing strong against genocide anywhere in the world. There were those who denied the Holocaust. There is no excuse with what we know today to deny the holocaust that is going on in China against Falun Gong practitioners. We need to stand up and say that nobody’s body parts should be harvested for their religious beliefs.”

He addressed directly the citizens of California, asking those who believe the Senate should be on record voting against genocide to call their legislators and tell them they want to see a vote on SJR 10.

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U.S. Rep. Jim BridenstineU.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Longtime space advocate Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) has been nominated by President Trump to be the next administrator of NASA. Birdenstine is known for his strong support for a new manned mission to the Moon, and for his belief that the United States needs to challenge China’s ever-expanding presence in space.

The nomination of the former Navy pilot and three-term Congressman from Oklahoma has been expected for some time, and was finally announced on Sept. 1. Previously, Trump tasked Vice President Mike Pence to lead a re-established the National Space Council aimed at reinvigorating and reasserting the U.S. presence in the space.

Bridenstine has been an active voice in the Congress for increasing the U.S. commitment to the space program. In 2016 Bridenstine introduced H.R. 4945, the American Space Renaissance Act, which sought to reform and modernize the U.S. space program in a comprehensive manner. While the act did not move forward, some of its elements were incorporated into later legislation.

The nomination could face a challenge in the Senate and has already prompted criticism from Florida’s two senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson. Florida is the home to NASA, and both Rubio and Nelson have complained that Bridenstine, a politician, lacks management experience.

However, some observers have speculated that Rubio’s opposition might have been partially motivated by Bridenstine’s support for Rubio’s primary opponent Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP presidential campaign, which caused relations between the Oklahoman and the Floridian to become bitter.

The private space flight industry has largely welcomed the news of Bridenstine’s nomination. Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), a private spaceflight advocacy group composed of space industry giants such as SpaceX and XCOR Aerospace, issued a statement praising President Trump’s nomination of Bridenstine. 

“NASA needs dedicated and inspired leadership, and Representative Bridenstine is an outstanding choice to provide precisely that,” said S. Alan Stern, board chair of CSF. 

Similarly, several space experts have voiced support for Bridenstine. “[Jim Bridenstine] understands space technology, economics and policy better than most of the people who advise our other policy makers on these topics,” said space researcher and educator Greg Autry. Previously Greg Autry had served as the Trump administration’s liaison to NASA. “Far from being a politician, Bridenstine is a well-informed aviator and leader,” Autry said.

Challenging China’s Presence in Space

Bridenstine has previously expressed serious concerns about China’s space ambitions, as he sees the U.S. presence in space and competition with other adversaries there as intimately linked with national security. Bridenstine’s support for a new manned mission to the Moon is partially motivated by China’s ever-expanding presence on and around the Moon.

In this July 20, 1969 file photo, astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. stands next to a U.S. flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the lunar surface. Jim Bridenstine, Trump’s newly nominated administrator of NASA, vows to compete with China in space by launching new manned mission to the Moon. (Neil A. Armstrong/NASA)

“As the cis-lunar economy develops, competition for locations and resources on the Moon is inevitable,” Jim Bridenstine wrote in a Blog post in 2016, “The Chinese currently have landers and rovers on the Moon. The United States does not.”

In another Blog post in 2015, Bridenstine wrote that: “We are seeing the Russians and Chinese attempt to deny space to us. The Russians are launching things into space that are not being registered with the agencies they would normally be registered with.”

“Space is no longer uncontested,” Bridenstine wrote. “It’s being contested, and it’s congested.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine will head an agency that currently has an annual budget of more than $19 billion. The current budget however takes up less than 0.5 percent of the total federal budget, a tiny portion compared to NASA’s heyday. During the 1960s the United States allocated almost 5 percent of the annual federal budget to NASA to fund the manned space missions to the Moon.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee business hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 21, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee business hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 21, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As Hong Kong elected yet another pro-Beijing proxy to be the city’s leader, Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a China-monitoring unit under the US Congress condemned the election as rigged and a gross violation of Hong Kong’s right to autonomy.

Voting on Sunday by Hong Kong’s 1,194-member Election Committee elected Carrie Lam, a candidate that is most favored by Beijing, to be the new chief executive and the highest official to the supposedly autonomous city. John Tsang, a former civil servant who was perceived to be more pro-democrat came in only a distant second. This is despite the fact that Tsang led in all major opinion polls among the Hong Kong public, and it is believed that Tsang would have easily won in a popular election.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and the chair of the CECC condemned China for again denying the people of Hong Kong the opportunity to elect its own leader in a fair election: “Beijing’s clear interference in these elections is yet another example of a precipitous erosion in Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy,” said Rubio.

In the same statement CECC points out that Beijing officials sought to interfere with the outcome of the already highly restricted election by pressuring Election Committee members to vote for Carrie Lam. Prior to the voting Beijing had threatened to “step in” if the Election Committee does not conform to its wishes.

The CECC statement points out that Beijing’s interference with Hong Kong’s election is a violation of  Article 22 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and China’s obligations under international law, which Beijing had agreed upon during the transfer of sovereignty of the city in 1997.

“The election itself was limited to 1,194 voters, denying Hong Kong residents a meaningful voice in their government,” the CECC statement said.

Opinion polls across the board have consistently indicated that the Hong Kong public overwhelmingly desire a direct election of their own chief executive, something that Beijing’s central government has always rejected. The 1,194-member Election Committee on the other hand has been criticized for being a “small-circle” composed mostly of pro-Beijing elements and special interests not reflective of Hong Kong’s popular will.

“If Hong Kong is to become just another mainland Chinese city under the new Chief Executive’s leadership, we will have to reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under U.S. law,” said Rubio in the CECC statement.

While the statement did not specifically name the special status that might be reassessed, observers believe it might include a wide range of preferential treatments Hong Kong currently receives from the United States over the rest of mainland China.

“Hong Kong passport holders currently enjoy preferential treatments by the US over those that hold passports from the People’s Republic of China, and this might change,” said Henry Kwok, an expert affiliated with the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, a Taiwan-based NGO dedicated to China’s human rights issues.

Paul Huang is a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and is affiliated with the Taiwan edition of The Epoch Times.

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