Media Contact: Heather Wong, 202.225.3072
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Lofgren (D- San Jose) today offered the following statement in strong support of the Vietnam Human Rights Act:
Mr. Speaker, we need to pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act to send a message to Vietnam’s communist government. Vietnam cannot continue to violate human rights and expect further normalization of the relationship between Vietnam and the United States.
Just two months ago, on Easter Week, Human Rights Watch reported that peaceful protests by indigenous minority Christian Montagnards turned violent when police used tear gas, electric truncheons, and water cannons on protestors. Reports indicate that police arrested several individuals, many whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Worse yet are reports of torture, police beatings, and deaths associated with this crackdown on the Montagnards.
In recent weeks, reports indicate that the Vietnamese government has taken the Vice President and Secretary General of the Vietnam Mennonite Church into custody for simply conducting a peaceful criticism of the government’s detention of four Vietnamese Mennonites.
The Vietnamese communist government has also repeatedly detained leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and the Catholic Church for their peaceful protests of human rights violations committed by their government.
Religious leaders and followers are not alone in their battle to practice their faith and protect their basic human rights. All Vietnamese who speak out run the risk of being censored and imprisoned.
According to a report by the Campaign for Freedom of Expression and Information in Vietnam, Vietnam’s 500-plus newspapers and magazines are state-owned and vigorously censored while 2,000 of Vietnam’s 5,000 websites are currently blocked for disseminating messages the state has deemed “subversive” or “reactionary.” Worse yet is the case of a Vietnamese writer and journalist imprisoned just after he submitted written testimony to a Congressional Members’ briefing that I sponsored.
This Congress has repeatedly addressed the continuing violations of human rights by the Vietnamese government.
On Vietnam Human Rights Day, my colleagues and I introduced a resolution recognizing the countless number of innocent Vietnamese “who have been tortured, imprisoned, or held under house arrest by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
In November last year, we passed a resolution that calls for religious freedom and the protection of human rights in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. We also introduced a resolution to call for the immediate release on Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly and condemn the “violations of freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and the lack of due process afforded to individuals in Vietnam.”
It is now time for us to pass a bill, not just a resolution, that will give us the tools we need to not only send the right message to Vietnam, but also to take action against Vietnam for their continuous human rights violations. We need to pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act today.
Vietnam cannot expect a friendship with the U.S. until they finally begin to respect the human rights of their own citizens.