Media Contact: Christine Glunz, 202.225.3072
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) issued the following statement during the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom press conference regarding the recent human rights violations and the lack of fundamental freedoms in Vietnam.o:p>
“I look forward to the day when we no longer need to hold these press conferences.
“Unfortunately, I see no sign of change in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government continues to systematically violate the human rights of its citizens through political, cultural, and religious oppression.
“In fact, it seems things have gotten worse in recent years.
“Just last week, relatives of a detained priest, Father Ly, were sentenced to three to five years for so-called ‘abuse of democratic freedoms’ when it appears all they were doing was exercising those very democratic freedoms they supposedly abused.
“According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the already poor religious freedom conditions in Vietnam have deteriorated since Congress passed the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in September 2001.
“The US Commission says that key religious dissidents have been imprisoned and others remain in detention or under house arrest. There are reportedly 18 Hoa Hao Buddhists in prison or under house arrest. The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam reports that at least 20 affiliated monks and lay leaders are either under house arrest or in re-education camps or prisons. There are reports of 20 Hmong Protestants and at least 10 Catholic priests in detention. Since January 2003, the US Commission of International Religious Freedom says 70 Montagnards have been serving lengthy prison sentences in connection with the February 2001 protests over land rights and restrictions on religious freedom in the Central Highlands.
“The US Commission on International Religious Freedom is not alone in their assessment of oppression in Vietnam.
Reporters Without Borders says that, “Vietnam remains one of the world’s most repressive countries where the Internet is concerned.” They say, “the Vietnamese government blocks access to websites it considers politically and morally ‘dangerous,’ including foreign news sites and those of human rights organizations set up by Vietnamese abroad.” Moreover, Reporters Without Borders says the government monitors the sites people visit and regularly hacks into websites they consider undesirable. One religious movement says the Vietnamese government sends computer viruses by e-mail to the movement’s followers.
“The US Commission on International Religious Freedom and Reporters Without Borders are not alone. Members of Congress have repeatedly sent letters to the Vietnamese government asking them to release prisoners of conscience and to refrain from various forms of political, religious, and cultural oppression. In addition, the US State Department has also steadily called for the release of prisoners. The vast majority of these requests seem to fall on deaf ears.
“This is unacceptable.
“Until Vietnam stops oppressing its people, the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Reporters Without Borders, Members of Congress, and other organizations and individuals will continue to hold press conferences like this. We will form and participate in Congressional Caucuses that focus on human rights abuses in Vietnam. We will advocate for legislation such as the Vietnam Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information in Vietnam Act. We will hold Congressional briefings, such as previous hearings on religious repression in Vietnam and our upcoming Members’ briefing on the Vietnamese government’s restrictions of information and the media.“The world is watching and we will not cease until we see improvements in Vietnam.”