A former survivor of the communist takeover of Poland has been awarded for his efforts promoting “freedom of belief” for Falun Gong practitioners worldwide.
Australia-based Sev Ozdowski, chair of the Australian Multicultural Council and vice-chancellor’s fellow at Western Sydney University, has worked closely with Falun Gong practitioners to hold events and raise awareness around the persecution taking place in China.
Ozdowski was unable to attend the ceremony, which was held in Washington D.C., but sent a video acceptance speech, saying he was “delighted” to receive the “Friends of Falun Gong Human Rights Award.”
“My interest in human rights and my work to advance and promote rights and freedoms dates to my youth in communist Poland. Human rights are the basic freedoms and protections that belong to every single one of us, and that should be delivered by a state,” he said.
“However, my experience of communism in Poland taught me that a totalitarian state could be, in fact, the worst violator of human rights,” he added.
Ozdowski explained that many of his family members were killed during the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. After the war, Poland came under communist rule, where his family suffered persecution because they were leaders and property owners.
“I understand the communist system. I remember the uprising in Poznan in 1956 when tanks were rolling and plenty of people were killed,” he said. “I was a boy of 7-years-old, but I remember very vividly all the shootings done by Polish and Soviet soldiers against the workers who simply rebelled because there was not enough bread; they just couldn’t buy enough food to support to themselves.”
Ozdowski learned about Falun Gong after receiving a flyer in Sydney’s Chinatown.
Falun Gong is a meditation practice encompassing both Buddhist and Daoist principles. It spread widely in China during the 1990s, growing to over 100 million adherents.
However, in July 1999, former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin launched a nationwide persecution on the practice and its followers. He declared that the CCP would “ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.”
As a result, millions of Falun Gong adherents became victims of the persecution, with many imprisoned, tortured, and compelled to renounce their faith.
In 2006, reports of systematic organ harvesting targeting adherents also began to emerge, and it was finally recognised by the United Nations in June 2020.
Ozdowski said one of the key issues with raising awareness around organ harvesting was that people were in disbelief when they learned of it.
“It reminds me of Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who was smuggled by the Polish underground to Auschwitz to document what was happening in the concentration camp,” he said. “He was then sent to the United States where he met the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in Washington D.C., who was of Jewish background.”
“When Karski talked about gassing people, mass executions, starvation and inhuman conditions in Auschwitz, Frankfurter simply said, ‘I must say I do not believe you,’” he said.
Ozdowski noted that another issue was that some business and political leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the practice due to having vested interests in the Chinese market.
He called on Falun Gong practitioners to “stay strong” and remember the victims of communist oppression in China.
“They need to be cherished and remembered. It is part of Falun Gong’s mission not to allow a re-writing of Chinese history,” he added. “Prepare yourselves for a role in a reborn China, because it may happen sooner than you think.”