Resolving to Ignore Chinese Abuses

Sacramento

The California Legislature isn’t shy about taking meaningless moral positions on national and international issues. It’s therefore no surprise that legislators returning from summer recess have been touting a variety of such proposals and resolutions.

Democratic leaders held a press conference Tuesday blasting President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (unless Congress fixes the problem in the next six months).

The Legislature passed a resolution urging the president and Congress “to condemn the government-sanctioned persecution, torture and murder of gay men in the Chechen Republic.”

Legislators took a strong stand on behalf of “science,” by urging federal leaders to “seek truth through rigorous, creative and unceasing inquiry and discovery.”

I’m sure the Chechen government is quivering in its boots and that anti-science forces, wherever they are, are about to give up their totem poles and crystals. No doubt, Donald Trump is now rethinking his position on immigration.

Legislators even had time to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 8, which calls on the California Department of Transportation to designate a portion of State Route 134 in Los Angeles County as the President Barack H. Obama Highway in honor of his “more than two decades of public service to the citizens of the United States and the State of California.”

Most of these resolutions pass with little debate or opposition, albeit some eye-rolling.

But there was one moral statement that clearly was beyond the pale. Republican Sen. Joel Anderson from San Diego County proposed a resolution that urged the People’s Republic of China to end the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and urge the president “to undertake an investigation into organ transplant practices” there.

Anderson’s Senate Joint Resolution 10 was hard-hitting, but echoed the sentiments in a June 2016 U.S. House of Representatives resolution that passed overwhelmingly on a bipartisan basis.

Falun Gong practitioners are involved in a spiritual practice focused on “truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.” The movement, explained the House resolution, became popular in the 1990s, but was outlawed by the Chinese government in 1999, which then “launched an intensive, nationwide persecution designed to eradicate” it.

The Falun Gong’s treatment reflects the Communist Party’s “long-standing intolerance of large independent civil society groups,” according to the congressional statement, which argues that Falun Gong practitioners often have been held in detention centers and re-education camps and even subject to torture. The U.S. State Department notes that “Advocacy groups continued to report instances of organ harvesting from prisoners.”

Condemning such barbarity seems like a no-brainer, especially given the Legislature’s no-holds-barred call for the federal government to “grant asylum and refugee status for (Chechens) fleeing persecution, including individuals fleeing persecution due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” There’s no problem standing up for oppressed Chechen gays, but why is a similar defense for oppressed Chinese spiritualists so controversial?

Anderson’s original resolution detailed widely reported allegations. It pointed to a 2016 report alleging “a vast Chinese network of prisons and hospitals and provided a tally of more than 700 transplant centers, including bed numbers, surgical staff, training programs, new infrastructure, use of antirejection drugs, and advertised transplant numbers during a period when no public organ donation program existed in China.”

That resolution was too harsh for the Senate, which watered it down to 10 mostly banal paragraphs pointing to “alleged mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned in China,” expressing support for their “nonviolent resistance” and condemning “any government-sanctioned persecution of Falun Gong practitioners” in China “or elsewhere.”

It lacked the seething, dripping outrage legislators reserve for, say, a former California governor for his past support of a long-dead initiative banning public services to illegal immigrants. (Yes, Pete Wilson was savaged in a resolution three years ago.) Or for the current president. The Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus issued a statement this week decrying Trump’s “recklessness” regarding DACA, but nothing regarding S.J.R. 10.

Even this neutered resolution ultimately was referred to the Rules Committee, where it essentially is dead, except in the unlikely circumstance that Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon decides to bring it to the Senate floor in the next two weeks.

Perhaps some legislators didn’t want to upset relations with the Chinese government, which sent them an unsigned letter last week warning that Anderson’s measure “may deeply damage the cooperative relations between the State of California and China and seriously hurt the feeling(s) of Chinese people and the vast Chinese community in California.”

The letter from the Chinese office of the consulate general in San Francisco argued that 1,400-plus Falun Gong followers died not because of persecution, but because they refused medical treatment or have committed “self-mutilation or suicide.” The Chinese government referred to the organ-harvesting allegations as groundless political sensationalism.

California’s Legislature really ought to deal with matters under its authority, such as the state’s crumbling dams and highways, and its pension crisis. Then again, the Democratic majority makes a bigger mess of everything it touches, so we might take solace when it spends its time renaming highways after Obama and pontificating about gay rights in the Chechen Republic.

One former GOP Assembly member admirably used to vote no on all resolutions, which was a great poke in the eye at the Legislature’s pomposity. But it won him no friends on either side of the aisle.

“As people who recognize and cherish our fundamental freedoms and human rights, we Californians have a duty to call out the egregious state-sponsored violation of those rights in China and to support the non-violent resistance,” Anderson said, in a statement.

Fair enough. If the Legislature believes it should condemn evil in Chechnya, it shouldn’t have trouble condemning it in the People’s Republic of China, too. Then again, this is the California Legislature, which only expresses outrage when alleged abuses conform to their leftist political narrative.

Steven Greenhut
Steven Greenhut
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Steven Greenhut is a senior fellow and Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.
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