My colleagues and I in the legislature have always stood together in a bipartisan fashion to condemn genocides throughout the world. Our California values demand that we use our collective influence as legislators to take a stand for human rights.
That is until the Chinese Communist Party drove a wedge between us by threatening legislators if we were to formally condemn China’s human rights violations.
My connection to the Falun Dafa — also known as Falun Gong — community dates back to 2008 when I was an assemblyman. A California resident, Joanna Wang, reached out to me in desperation when her mom, Jinhua Ma, was arrested in China for practicing Falun Dafa. I wrote a letter to the Chinese government to ask for Jinhua’s release. It took eight years for the Chinese government to release her. Needless to say, the reunion was extraordinary and emotional, and I was grateful to meet Joanna and her mom in person when they came together to visit me in my office.
Last July, I introduced Senate Joint Resolution 10 to condemn the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China. Falun Dafa is a spiritual and meditation practice that originated in China, and emphasizes truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, have documented systemic persecution, extra-judicial incarceration, torture and forced organ harvesting resulting in death of the peaceful Falun Dafa practitioners by the Chinese government, which condemns the practitioners as an “evil cult.” I was approached by some of my constituents with relatives in China who live under the threat of this persecution, who wanted to see their state government stand up in support of religious freedom the same way that other states like Illinois, Minnesota and Pennsylvania — as well as California’s entire Congressional delegation — have, by passing a formal resolution. Poway resident and Falun Dafa practitioner Miles Segni believes that speaking out for human rights is an ethical priority, especially given California’s high ethnic Chinese population and significant trade relations with Asia. He told me “California must show that it is both an internationally-inclined region, but also one that holds fast to universal values in its interactions.”
The resolution was unanimously supported by legislators until the Chinese government intervened. In an anonymous letter to lawmakers in September, the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco warned lawmakers not to adopt SJR 10 and threatened that passing the resolution would “deeply damage” California-China relations. The leader of the Senate caved in quickly, shelving the human rights resolution overnight. He and his colleagues in the majority party voted down my 18 different attempts to have the resolution heard before the legislature adjourned for the year at the end of September.
It’s very disappointing that the super-majority that controls the agenda in Sacramento chooses not to allow members of the minority to be heard on the Senate floor. See, the leader of the Senate could have allowed a vote on the resolution, and he and his colleagues in the super-majority could have simply voted no if they agreed with the Chinese consulate. Instead they voted 18 times not to allow the measure itself to be voted on.
Allowing a foreign communist government to silence dissenting voices in our democratic institutions has very frightening implications for California, and further emboldens China in its blatant human rights violations and propaganda machine.
I believe my constituents have the right to be represented on the Senate floor just as much the residents of any other community, and that might doesn’t make right. I also believe that every Californian has the right to know where their representative stands on human rights. The only way to know that is if SJR 10 is allowed a vote on the Senate floor.
We have learned from past genocides what the cost of staying silent is. We cannot turn a blind eye to the dire circumstances that Falun Dafa practitioners and other religious minorities face in China. Most importantly, allowing the Chinese government to openly manipulate our government’s actions is a violation of everything our country stands for.
If you agree that Californians deserve to know where their legislator stands and that SJR 10 deserves an up or down vote, email me at Senator.Anderson@sen.ca.gov so I can share your opinion with my colleagues. Another option is to sign the “Support SJR 10” petition on my website at sen.ca.gov/anderson.
Anderson represents California’s 38th Senate District, which includes Poway and 4S Ranch.
Originally published in Poway News Chieftain on Feb. 6, 2018: