By Jonathan J. Cooper
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California senator says Democratic legislative leaders are squashing his attempt to stand up for practitioners of a banned Chinese spiritual movement under pressure from the government of China.
The Senate shelved a symbolic resolution condemning persecution of Falun Gong practitioners after lawmakers received a letter from the Chinese consulate warning the measure would be detrimental to relations between California and China.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder with meditation and exercises to improve physical and mental health. China regards it as a dangerous cult and a threat to social stability and outlawed the practice in 1999.
Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine outside San Diego, tried repeatedly last week to attach his resolution to unrelated symbolic measures offered by Democrats, including one to show solidarity with the persecuted LGBT community in Chechnya. Anderson was a featured speaker at a protest on Sept. 8 at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
“I don’t care if Democrats vote no,” Anderson said. “But they don’t have a right to stop the minority to be heard, and they certainly don’t have a right to pick and choose the genocides that they oppose.”
Jonathan Underland, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, declined to comment.
Falun Gong supporters allege that practitioners in China have been executed and their organs involuntarily harvested for transplants — a charge the Chinese government vehemently denies.
In their letter to lawmakers, Chinese officials condemned the movement and urged lawmakers not to adopt Anderson’s resolution.
“This may deeply damage the cooperative relations between the State of California and China and seriously hurt the feeling of Chinese people and the vast Chinese community in California,” said the letter, dated Sept. 1 and signed without a name by the consulate general in San Francisco.
China and California have deep ties through trade and tourism, and their governments are cooperating on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Jerry Brown met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a trip to China earlier this year.
Anderson said he’s so passionately taken on the fight over a purely symbolic resolution because of his longstanding interest in promoting human rights. He said he wrote a letter to the Chinese ambassador in 2008 on behalf a constituent whose mother was detained in China for practicing Falun Gong. ■