Vietnamese-American groups, human rights organizations, and members of
Congress are urging President Bush to make human rights in Vietnam a
priority in his talks next week with visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.
and representatives of human rights organizations joined members of
Congress in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.
Ngoc Bich, of the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans, reads a
statement on behalf of nearly a dozen groups, criticizing Vietnam's
"The current Vietnamese government
headed by Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, being appointed by the Communist Party
of Vietnam, does not represent the true voice and interests of the vast
majority of the Vietnamese people since it is not a government voted
into power through free and fair elections," said Nguyen Ngoc Bich.
White House has already said President Bush will stress human rights
and freedoms of speech, religion and assembly when he welcomes
Vietnam's prime minister, along with bilateral matters and a key focus
on trade relations.
However, as with the last visit of a
Vietnamese leader, lawmakers are making the case that the president has
not done enough to help ease repression of political activists and
religious leaders in Vietnam.
California Democrat Loretta Sanchez:
government of Vietnam has harassed, has put under house arrest, and has
sentenced countless peaceful democracy advocates to prison, all of whom
were not afforded a legal and fair trial, and this is unacceptable,"
said Congresswoman Sanchez.
Republican Congressman Chris Smith
joins Sanchez and others in saying Vietnam has not made the human
rights and political reforms many hoped it would under PNTR, Permanent
Normal Trade Relations, with the United States.
"It looked on
the surface, as if some of the more egregious government abuse was
abating and a season of modest reform [was] possible," said
Congressman Smith. "That illusion, well meaning but naïve as it was,
has been shattered by arrests and re-arrests of some of the most noble
and courageous Vietnamese democracy advocates on Earth."
particular, Smith mentions Pham Hong Son, jailed for posting a
democracy essay on the Internet, and attorneys Nguyen Van Dai and Le
Thi Cong, sentenced for pro-democracy activities.
of Freedom Now, sums up the charges against Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Van
Ly, and Nguyen Dan Que, serving jail terms of between 30 months and 20
"Their crimes? Translating and emailing an article
entitled What is Democracy? Sending an email critical of the
government's restrictions of media freedom from an Internet café,"
said Maren Turner. "And providing testimony about religious freedoms
in Vietnam to the U.S. government."
Leonard Leo is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which visited Vietnam in 2007:
saw firsthand the backsliding which has taken place since Vietnam
received the trade and aid that it so very much wanted," said Leonard
Leo. "Problems continue to persist, it is very serious."
commission says Vietnam should be designated a Country of Particular
Concern (CPC) regarding violations of religious freedom. Congressman
Smith says it should be identified as Tier 3, among serious violators.
He is also frustrated that Congress has failed to pass the Global
Online Freedom Act, dealing with government's use of the Internet to
suppress dissent, and the Vietnam Human Rights Act.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch says President Bush must also press
the Vietnamese leader on Hanoi's cracked down on writers and
"By agreeing to welcome Prime Minister in
Washington, the Bush administration assumes a particular responsibility
to speak frankly and publicly about Vietnam's ongoing criminalization
of peaceful expression," said Sophie Richardson.
Congressman Frank Wolf is a sharp critic of Bush administration efforts on Vietnam human rights issues:
is watching the Bush administration," said Congressman Wolf. "History
is watching President Bush next week. History is watching Secretary
Condoleeza Rice next week. And history is watching what the American
ambassador [to Vietnam] does. As now they get an F, a solid F, without
Democrat Zoe Lofgren is sponsoring a resolution calling for the end of PNTR unless human rights situation in Vietnam improved.
would beg the president of the United States to show some leadership
when he meets with the Communist regime in the coming days," said Zoe
Lofgren. "The status quo is not acceptable."
At the same time,
members of Congress have recognized Bush administration help in
obtaining freedom for some Vietnamese-Americans detained in Vietnam.
and the United States held their annual human rights dialogue in May,
with U.S. officials raising concerns about freedom of expression and
religion, saying Washington was pleased with progress in several areas.