Media Contact: Christine Glunz, 202.225.3072
Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) submitted the following statement to the Congressional Record on the Bush Administration’s relationship with Vietnam:
“Mr. Speaker, President Bush and his Administration have begun a new relationship with the Communist regime in Vietnam. Recently, the Vietnamese Defense Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister traveled to Washington for historic visits with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Shortly thereafter, the U.S.S. Vandegrift entered the port of Ho Chi Minh City, the first U.S. warship to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War nearly three decades ago.
“This newly forged friendship between the Bush administration and the Communist regime in Vietnam comes amidst continuous reports of human rights violations committed by the Vietnamese government.
“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that almost forty Buddhist monks and lay leaders are in prison, under house arrest, or in re-education camps, as well as twenty Hmong Protestants and at least ten Catholic priests in detention.
“Freedom of speech in Vietnam is just as bad. 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.
“Yet, every time I write the State Department, I get the same response, but no action, just as the letter I am submitting for the record today. The State Department tells me, in their words, “we share your serious concern” and are “deeply troubled by the restrictions that the Government of Vietnam places on its citizens’ freedom of expression, as well as other human rights.” They tell me that “[p]romoting human rights is a priority in our bilateral relations with Vietnam.”
“If promoting human rights in Vietnam really is a priority for the Bush Administration, why are they having friendly meetings with high-level Vietnamese officials without initially demanding protection of human rights?
“Why is the Bush Administration not, instead, condemning the Communist regime in Vietnam for issuing a statement that attacks a human rights resolution this body passed with an overwhelming vote of 409-13? That Vietnamese statement, which I submit for the record today, alleges that our Congressional resolution contains “false” and “inaccurate” information. Yet, our resolution is backed by reports from various respected human rights organizations, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. State Department. Instead of condemning the reckless statement from Vietnam, the Bush Administration is embracing a Communist regime it admits is a human rights violator.
“The Bush Administration’s hypocrisy and apathetic attitude towards human rights is unacceptable. As long as the people of Vietnam are oppressed, abused, and imprisoned, our President should not get friendly with a Communist regime without first demanding protection of human rights.”