Brownback & Lantos Swett: bipartisan Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act an ‘important first step’

Apr. 6, 2023

WASHINGTON — International Religious Freedom Summit co-chairs Sam Brownback and Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett release the following statement upon the passage in the House of the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act:

“We were greatly encouraged to see broad bipartisan support for the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act, which the House of Representatives passed nearly unanimously last week – thanks in no small part to the dedicated efforts of Rep. Chris Smith, Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The Senate will now consider this important piece of legislation, and we urge that body to quickly follow suit.

“The heinous act of forced organ harvesting and the trafficking of human organs violates the most fundamental rights of its innocent victims. For many years, China has been the primary perpetrator of these crimes, with experts estimating that its human organ trafficking industry totals more than $1 billion. The targets of China’s forced organ harvesting have traditionally been Falun Gong practitioners, who have long been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and even executed for their beliefs. More recently, experts have cited evidence that China has begun targeting other religious and ethnic minorities for organ harvesting, including the 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims imprisoned in so-called reeducation camps. Not only does this organ harvesting constitute the most egregious form of persecution based on religious belief, it flouts the most basic principles of human rights and human dignity.

“As Co-Chairs of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit, we have worked with our partners to raise the profile of this issue within the context of the Summit and to sound the alarm about its magnitude with members of Congress and government officials. We believe that our advocacy efforts, and those of many like-minded organizations, are beginning to have a real impact. This was evident when Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, specifically mentioned the practice of forced organ harvesting in the opening plenary of the 2023 IRF Summit.

“The Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act marks an important first step towards greater U.S. leadership on this issue. The Act would: authorize the U.S. to sanction foreign individuals that fund, sponsor or facilitate forced organ harvesting or trafficking; deny passports and visas to individuals involved in the trafficking or illegal purchasing of human organs; and mandate annual reporting on forced organ harvesting in foreign countries as part of the State Department’s annual human rights reporting.

“At the IRF Summit, we have been able to hear directly from the family members of victims of forced organ harvesting. Their stories are horrific and heartbreaking – once heard, they can never be forgotten. It is our deep hope that the U.S. Senate will now do its part to codify America’s opposition to this appalling practice and use its power and influence to help put an end to one of the most shameful ongoing human rights abuses in the world.”

International Religious Freedom Summit is a powerful, broad coalition of religious, human rights and civil society groups that advocate for religious freedom for all people, everywhere at all times.

Samuel Brownback served as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (2018-21) and is co-chair of IRF Summit.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett is president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and is co-chair of IRF Summit.