House Speaker Mike Johnson issued a warning Wednesday about China’s “organ harvesting” during a speech emphasizing the importance of religious freedom.
Johnson delivered the address at the International Religious Freedom Summit, where he emphasized the importance of religious freedom across the globe. He warned that government becomes “tyrannical” when it takes away religious freedom.
“When religious freedom is taken away from people, political freedom follows,” he said. “We know that is the lesson of history. James Madison once said it is conscience that is the most sacred of all property. So if governments shouldn’t steal your property, then they shouldn’t steal your conscience.”
The speaker pointed to the Chinese government’s treatment of religious minorities in the country as an example of religious persecution, citing reports that China has engaged in organ harvesting among some minorities.
“Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners are placed in forced labor camps, and they have their organs harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Johnson said.
“In the Uyghur autonomous region, Uyghur Muslims are suffering under Chinese Communist Party’s genocidal campaign of forced sterilization, forced detention and reeducation,” he continued. “Millions of Uyghurs have been detained in these camps, where they’re kept in cramped cells, and they’re tortured and brainwashed. Uyghur women are subject to heinous violence.”
Human rights advocates have long condemned alleged organ harvesting among religious groups in China, specifically against detained members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
In 2014, China said it would end the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners. Three years later, the World Health Organization said Beijing has taken steps to do so, although WHO medical officer José Ramon Nuñez Peña told the Associated Press that “there may still be hidden things going on.”
In 2019, an independent tribunal in London concluded that there was “no evidence” the practice had ended, despite Beijing’s previous announcement.
“Based on multiple sources of information, it has been alleged that prisoners of conscience have been killed ‘to order’ for the purposes of extracting and using their organs for profitable transplantation surgery,” the tribunal concluded.
In the U.S., members of Congress have tried to hold China accountable for the practice.
In March 2023, Senators Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, introduced a bipartisan bill that would deny passports and visas to anyone involved in illegal organ trafficking and mandate annual reporting on the practice in foreign countries.
“There is growing evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has and continues to harvest organs from persecuted religious groups, prisoners of conscience, and inmates,” Cotton said in a statement announcing the legislation. “This bill will identify and punish CCP members involved in forced organ harvesting. It’s past time to hold Beijing accountable for these heinous acts.”
A similar bill passed the House of Representatives that same month, with only two legislators voting against the effort.
Last June, GOP Representatives Michelle Steele of California and Neal Dunn of Florida urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ramp up efforts to prevent organ harvesting.
“I have met with several survivors of the CCP’s internment camps that torture and enslave minorities, including Uyghurs, and have heard firsthand about the horrors experienced at the hands of the CCP,” Steele said in a press release.
“We must do whatever we can to prevent the organ harvesting industry,” she said.