Bipartisan House Members Introduce Vietnam Human Rights Act

May 6, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of Vietnam Human Rights Day on May 11th, a bipartisan group of House members introduced H.R. 3001, the Vietnam Human Rights Act—legislation led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) co-chairs of the Congressional Vietnam Caucus—to hold Vietnamese officials accountable for gross human rights abuses and help prioritize the protection of freedoms and the development of the rule of law in the country.

“My district is home to one of the largest Vietnamese-American communities in the country. I know from firsthand accounts that Vietnam’s horrible record on human rights must not be allowed to stand,” said Rep. Lofgren. “Our bipartisan Vietnam Human Rights Act will help give the Vietnamese people the tools and information they need to fight for change from within, and it will hold Vietnam’s government accountable for atrocities. It’s a bill that is both in the best interest of the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.”

“The freedom of religion, freedom of the press, internet freedom, independent labor unions, the protection of women and girls from trafficking, and advances in the rule of law must be essential components of any U.S.-led effort to ensure that Vietnam and the Indo-Pacific region are both free and open. This bill sends a strong, bipartisan message that a freer Vietnam—which has the potential to be the strategic anchor of its region and a close U.S. ally—is a critical national interest for the United States,” said Rep. Smith. “U.S. policies must press for the freedoms and rights desired by the overwhelming majority of the Vietnamese people, not support the privileged elite of the Communist Party who too often get a free pass on human rights.”

“Sadly, the communist government of Vietnam continues to remain one of the worst human rights offenders and blatantly refuses to respect the rights that Vietnamese citizens are entitled to under their own laws,” said Rep. Lowenthal. “This legislation puts the Vietnamese government on notice that we are not just watching, but we will continue to fight for the human rights of the Vietnamese people.”

Rep. Lou Correa said, "I remain saddened that the human rights and religious freedom violations in Vietnam continue to rise and that religious leaders and political dissidents continue to be persecuted throughout Vietnam. As the United States and Vietnam continue to normalize our relationship, we must keep human rights and freedom of religion at the forefront of the conversation. This bipartisan legislation ensures the United States can hold Vietnamese officials accountable as we push the Vietnamese government to expand and protect civil liberties in Vietnam."

Also cosponsored by Lou Correa (D-CA-46), Young Kim (R-CA-39) and Michelle Steel (R-CA-48), the bipartisan legislation would allow the United States to sanction Vietnamese officials and others who are complicit in systematic violations of internationally recognized human rights, including particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Among other provisions, the bipartisan bill:

  • Authorizes new programs to monitor and halt bride and sex trafficking of women and girls;
  • Prohibits any direct or indirect funding for Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which engages in cyber-espionage activity and hacking;
  • Requires enhanced reporting on Vietnamese human rights abuses, sanctioning of Vietnamese officials and U.S. efforts to promote internet freedom and the flow of information in Vietnam;
  • Urges implementation of key sanctions already provided under the Global Magnitsky Act and the International Religious Freedom Act, including visa denials and financial sanctions; and
  • Calls for restrictions on non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam’s government until certain human rights milestones are met.

Previous versions of the legislation have passed the House on three occasions with overwhelming bipartisan support, but have stalled in the Senate.