By Alex Newman
JERUSALEM – Despite pressure from authorities in Israel and China to ignore the issue, Israeli lawmakers from various political parties held an official conference at the Knesset to expose the Communist Chinese regime’s practice of harvesting body organs from dissidents.
The gathering was organized by Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin of the ruling Likud Party, the deputy speaker in parliament and an outspoken supporter of human rights and freedom around the world.
Feiglin’s liberty-minded “Liberal Lobby” also helped organize the event.
“They are cutting their organs out over there from their own people and selling [them],” Feiglin told WND in an interview at his office the day before the recent symposium. “What happened under the communist regime in China is horrible.”
Israel and the Jewish people have a duty to speak out, Feiglin emphasized.
“Human rights all over the world is the issue,” Feiglin told WND. “We should deal with it; Israel, as a Jewish state, should deal with it. We are the people that brought the Bible to the world. We have a moral message to the world.”
The conference began with an award-winning documentary film, “Free China: The Courage to Believe,” which tells the story of two Chinese victims who endured persecution and torture at the hands of the dictatorship in Beijing.
Among other points, the film showed how the Communist Party regime originally encouraged the spiritual discipline known as Falun Gong before ruthlessly turning against it in the late 1990s when practitioners began to outnumber CCP members.
After deciding to ban Falun Gong as an “evil cult,” Chinese authorities carried out a brutal crackdown on the practice, sparking global outcry.
Practitioners are hunted down, imprisoned in slave labor camps, ordered to renounce their beliefs, “re-educated” and worse. In more than a few cases, as the film documents, the persecuted dissidents even have their organs harvested for sale on the black market.
Despite increasingly widespread exposure in the West, the grisly crackdown in China is still going on today, sources document.
The Chinese regime denies it is engaged in organ harvesting aimed at dissidents, but experts and survivors say evidence of the practice is overwhelming.
One of the speakers at the Knesset event was Lizhi He, a victim of the Chinese regime’s persecution who traveled from his current home in Canada to testify.
Imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong, Lizhi survived more than three years in a Chinese prison despite brutal torture. His wife fled to Canada from China in 2001 to avoid arrest.
“During my imprisonment, Amnesty International in Canada [classified] me as a prisoner of conscience,” Lizhi told the gathering.
He added that the Canadian Parliament unanimously passed a motion calling for the rescue of Falun Gong practitioners with family members in Canada. He was on a list and was released in 2004.
The former civil engineer in Beijing with the Construction Ministry, however, endured years of brutality at the hands of his captors.
“My right to practice Falun Gong was deprived overnight, like tens of millions of other innocent Chinese,” he explained.
Recounting his story in English with a translator by his side to explain it in Hebrew, Lizhi said he was abducted by Chinese police from Tiananmen Square and detained for weeks.
In July 2000, he received a visa from Canada. Before leaving, Lizhi explained, he wrote letters to friends “so they would not be misled by the Communist regime’s propaganda.”
The prosecutor then ordered him to sign a statement claiming that there was no ill treatment of Falun Gong practitioners. He would not.
“It was not true. I refused,” Lizhi said. “Then I was officially prosecuted, and on December 5, I was sentenced in a sham court to 3.5 years in prison.”
“The 1,280 illegal days of imprisonment and torture almost took my life,” he said.
For the first seven months, he was often forced to sit motionless, subjected to beatings for any slight movement. He was also drenched in freezing water during the winter, which sparked a fever that lasted for months. Lizhi said his face was covered with pus, and oftentimes he struggled even to breathe.
“In addition to the physical torture, Falun Gong practitioners were monitored in prison by designated inmates and electronic devices,” he said, adding that he was not allowed to use the toilet “like normal humans.”
Other torture techniques Lizhi endured included being shocked with high voltage and extreme sleep deprivation.
“All these atrocities targeted my beliefs and conscious,” he said.
“The most painful memory was witnessing my fellow Falun Gong practitioners,” Lizhi continued. “I can never forget the horrifying screams of female Falun Gong practitioners being force fed.
“Looking back, my time in prison was like a nightmare,” he told attentive lawmakers and assembled attendees, adding that he was “on the verge of death.”
While in prison, he was also forced into slave labor, stitching footballs and other products for export.
“It was my strong belief in truthfulness and compassion that helped me through,” he explained.
Concluding his remarks, Lizhi thanked the Knesset members and other guests, calling for an end to the persecution, the organ harvesting and the myriad crimes perpetrated by the Chinese regime.
“Such tragedies are still happening in China under the name of law,” Lizhi said. “Your speaking out will help save lives. Your actions are blessed by God. Thank you.”
The conference, dubbed “The Responsibility of the State of Israel Regarding the Issue of Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China,” also attracted a wealth of high-profile supporters, including at least 10 Knesset members.
Lizhi and Feiglin both noted that immense political pressure had been aimed at attendees in an effort to stop them from attending.
Israeli authorities apparently were pressured by Chinese officials to stop the event, organizers said.
“I would like to say that the intimidation encountered came out of fear – fear of anti-humanity crimes being exposed, because the perpetrators in China are desperate to hide their crimes,” Lizhi said after pointing out that some of the people in attendance had been threatened.
Feiglin also noted in his opening statement that he had been urged to cancel the event while others had been pressured not to participate.
“Today, a message was sent from the Israeli Knesset,” Feiglin said. “Judaism and the Israeli Knesset cannot live along[side] horrors like those, happening anywhere in the world.
“The Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem will continue to monitor those acts of horror and to avoid this persecution, this enslavement and to ensure freedom for the world,” he promised.
More than a few lawmakers sympathetic to the plight of the Chinese did not attend, Feiglin noted.
However, among the prominent voices speaking out against the crimes was another victim of brutal communist persecution.
Natan Anatoly Sharansky, a former Israeli politician who now leads the Jewish Agency for Israel, was a prisoner in a Soviet Gulag for almost a decade before being released as part of a prisoner exchange.
“Jewish people have the moral right to speak out against any injustice such as what we saw here today,” Sharansky told attendees.
“If people had not spoken out while I was in prison under the communist regime, I would still be there,” he added. “My only crime was being a Jew and wanting to live in my homeland in freedom and democracy.”
Other lawmakers and prominent attendees spoke out as well, saying the world needed to address the human rights situation in China.
He wrote about Julian Savulescu, “Oxford’s radical don who has been making pro-death pronouncements for years under the guise of academic ‘bioethical’ scholarship and who leads a bioethical stream of thought kicking around novel ideas about how to separate patients from their organs more efficiently.”
Mostert notes Savulescu’s “radical solution” is to “take organs before the donor patient has been declared dead.”
WND also reported on a program in New York City to put a roving Organ Preservation Unit in the field to harvest kidneys from people who die after going into cardiac arrest.
One critical blog immediately termed the program “Mayor Bloomberg’s Organ Snatchers,” asking what difference there is “in practical terms between the government letting you die and pressuring your relatives to give you the organs” and having a private third-party brokering a sale of organs.
Unregistered church, which are not under government control, also face extreme persecution at the hands of Chinese authorities.
Slowly, world leaders have become aware of the organ harvesting through the work of human rights activists and survivors, although action still is lacking.
When asked for comment, the person who answered the phone at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said she did not speak English. Another phone number for the ministry was not answered.
Organizers of the Knesset conference issued a statement promising to follow up on the issue.
“We, the participants of this symposium, demand that the government of China stop the practice of organ harvesting; respect the ‘image of God’ [in humanity], which is mutual to all of us; and stop the persecution and the abuse of people for their faith,” it reads. “The Liberal Lobby of the Knesset will follow-up on the issue of the severe abuse of human rights in China, and will persevere with this moral demand.”