A few weeks ago I traveled with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and several of my colleagues to visit Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Korea, and Japan.
I was particularly eager to visit Vietnam. As many of you know, San Jose has the largest Vietnamese population in the United States and outside of Vietnam. I frequently hear from my constituents who are concerned with the lack of human rights and basic democratic principles in Vietnam. I’ve heard many times from friends and family members of Vietnamese nationals who have been wrongfully imprisoned in Vietnam because they agitated for better working conditions, or simply the right to freely exercise their religion.
I was hopeful my visit would help shed some light on these important issues, and possibly bring about some measure of justice for political prisoners.
My first morning in Hanoi, Leader Pelosi and I met with a group of religious and political dissidents in Vietnam who have been persecuted by the Vietnamese government. Their stories were deeply troubling, but their perseverance and conviction was inspiring.
Standing far right, Mr. Vo Van Buu, a Hoa Hao Buddhist, had just been released after spending 8 years in jail, his wife Mai thi Dung, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, and her health is now in danger. Next to Leader Pelosi is Mr. Ly Van Hung, a H'mong, and follower of Mr. Duong Van Minh, an ethic religious leader who was imprisoned for 5 years.
Next to the left is Ms. Dang thi Quynh Anh, Bui thi Minh Hang's daughter, a blogger and human rights activist who has been sentenced to 3 years in prison. Next to left is Ms. Le Thu Ha, a lawyer and interpreter. The Gentleman with glasses is also a lawyer and interpreter, Hoang Chi Hieu. Furthest to the left is Mr. Ly Thanh Luong, a H’mong follower of Mr. Duong Van Minh.
Shortly after my meeting with the Vietnamese dissidents, who had been deprived of many basic human dignities and rights, I traveled to the National Assembly House in Hanoi.
Once there, I met with National Assembly Chairman and Politburo Member Nguyen Sinh Hung to express my disappointment that his government has continued to employ repressive tactics to stifle free speech, expression and political participation. I also handed him a list of political prisoners who had been wrongly incarcerated by the Vietnamese government and requested he facilitate their immediate release.
I handed National Assembly Chairman and Politburo Member Nguyen Sinh Hung a list of political prisoners who should be released immediately.
Soon after, I met with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at the office of the Government, President and Politburo Member Truong Tan Sang at the Presidential Palace, and Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary and Politburo member Nguyen Phu Trong with the same list and a simple message: political rights, religious freedoms, and human dignity cannot be suppressed in a free and open society. I advocated for human rights at each meeting, and I delivered a list of political prisoners and asked for their release at each meeting.
Handing Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh a list of political prisoners who had wrongfully been imprisoned for their beliefs.
Meeting with Communist Party General Secretary and Politburo member Nguyen Phu Trong.
Meeting Vietnamese President and Politburo member Truong Tan Sang at the Presidential Palace with my list in hand
The list of political prisoners I handed to every Communist official I met and asked for their immediate release.