TOTALITARIANISM employs many tools: propaganda, indoctrination, censorship, gulags, but they all boil down to a single weapon – fear. Fear of the power of the state to do whatever it wishes and to crush any opposition. This fear sits in the mind of any would-be rebel and acts as a brake on any impulse to overt non-conformity.
This is why religion has been a principal target of totalitarians throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Those with a religious conviction have something greater in their lives than the state. The persecution of Christians by Stalin and Hitler alike was an inevitable outworking of their similar political outlook.
Today in China, the communist state is determined to control religion. The persecution of Christians, Muslims and others is testimony to their resistance to communist ideological control. China has an estimated 1.5million prisoners of conscience, men, women and children who do that most dangerous thing: they think differently. These prisoners include House Church Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline of the peaceful ‘Buddha School’, combining slow-moving exercises and meditation with a moral philosophy centred on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. By 1999, it was estimated that the Falun Gong population in China numbered approximately 70million.
In any other country in the world they would be considered a useful sector of society, stable, law-abiding and peaceful; at worst they would be considered mildly eccentric. In totalitarian communist China they are seen as dangerous subversives and have been described as an ‘evil cult’. To the totalitarian mindset, even Quakers are considered perilously noncompliant.
The Communist party’s rationale for banning Falun Gong stems from a variety of factors. These include Falun Gong’s popularity, its independence from the state and refusal to toe the party line, and Falun Gong’s moral and spiritual content, which put it at odds with the party’s Marxist-Leninist atheist ideology.
According to Communist propaganda, the Falun Gong was ‘competing for popularity with the party’. This is an unpardonable crime. Falun Gong’s growing acceptance, particularly within the Communist party and members of the military, so alarmed Chinese state officials that in 1999 a nationwide crackdown began in an attempt to eradicate the practice.
The crackdown was run by the 610 Office, an extrajudicial security agency established by the Chinese state to eradicate Falun Gong practitioners. Headed by a high-ranking Communist party official, the 610 Offices throughout China co-ordinate anti-Falun Gong propaganda, conduct surveillance and collect intelligence.
Office 610 is also concerned with the punishment and ‘re-education’ of Falun Gong practitioners. The office is reportedly involved in the extrajudicial sentencing, coercive re-education, torture and sometimes death of Falun Gong practitioners. The aim of the Chinese government is to crush Falun Gong; in the process no measures are considered too excessive.
One of these methods is using Falun Gong as a cash crop. China’s organ transplant sector has grown dramatically. It is estimated that the trade is worth $1billion per year to the Chinese economy. To prosper it needs a steady supply of healthy organs. Systematic forced organ extraction from prisoners of conscience provides a gruesome resource for this flourishing industry.
In 2000, coinciding with the beginning of the persecution of Buddha School Falun Gong, China’s organ transplantation industry greatly expanded in activity. By using prisoners, instead of waiting for months or years for a transplant, organs can be available within days. Reports have emerged of ‘emergency’ livers being sourced within four hours. This is a timeframe which any other national organ transplant system in the world would consider impossible to achieve by acceptable means.
Kashgar Airport airport in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has even installed a priority lane marked ‘Special Passengers, Human Organ Exportation Lane’. This lane has to be kept open to enable the speedy transportation of recently extracted organs for transplants.
Xinjing Uyghur Autonomous Region in the westernmost region of China lies in a strategically important position along the Silk Road. It is also the home of the Uyghur Muslims, another of China’s persecuted religious groups.
In response to outcry in the West since 2010, the Chinese government has supposedly been engaged in an effort to reform its system of organ transplantation by moving from prison-based ‘donations’ to developing a system of hospital-based voluntary donors declared dead by accepted neurological and/or circulatory criteria. Chinese officials announced that from January 1, 2015, hospital-based donors would be the sole source of organs.
Recent research indicates that there is credible evidence pointing to systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant datasets and the misclassification of donors in China. This takes place alongside genuine voluntary organ transplant activity, which is often incentivised by large cash payments.
Today marks 20 years since the Chinese government began their official campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. In major cities across the world protesters will mark 20 years of persecution with peaceful demonstrations.
To the oppressive Chinese state, individuals, especially if they are believers, are nothing more than a commodity to be manipulated or exploited to the benefit of the state. To the traditional tools of totalitarian states, China has added the fear of being imprisoned and kept alive in order to have one’s vital organs harvested.