Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Loretta Sanchez call for release of Vietnamese activist Nguyen Van Hai

August 1, 2013
Press Release

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, released a letter they have sent to Vietnamese President Troung Tan Sang calling for the immediate release of Nguyen Van Hai, a blogger and peaceful activist better known by his pen name "Dieu Cay – the Peasant's Pipe." Nguyen, a founding member of the pro-freedom of the press Free Vietnamese Journalist Club who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012, has been on a hunger strike since June 23rd to protest his inhumane detention conditions. The lawmakers told Vietnamese President Sang they are concerned for his health and well-being, and urged Sang to intervene.

"If the government of Vietnam wants to continue to engage in trade and relations with the U.S., then President Sang must stop these violations of basic human rights and give prisoners of conscience like Nguyen Van Hai their freedom," said Rep. Lofgren.

"I condemn the Government of Vietnam for its continued crackdowns against community organizers and social activists," said Rep. Sanchez. "I have been calling for the Hanoi authorities to release Blogger Dieu Cay Nguyen Van Hai since 2008, when he was unjustly imprisoned for being in the forefront of a movement of citizen journalists, reporting on issues of national concerns such as corruption and police brutality. I strongly urge the Government of Vietnam to immediately release Blogger Dieu Cay so he and his family may seek appropriate medical care after a 40-day hunger strike. The Vietnamese government must cease its prosecution of citizens like Nguyen Van Hai for peacefully expressing their views. They have been harassed and persecuted for far too long."

Reps. Lofgren and Sanchez expressed their concern over increased efforts by the communist Vietnamese government to silence voices of opposition in direct violation of the guarantees of free expression Vietnam has agreed to uphold as a signer of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In fact, Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently noted that the Vietnamese government has increasingly targeted peaceful advocates, religious minorities, journalists and citizens for arrest and imprisonment as political prisoners. According to HRW, by June of this year, more people had been sentenced for peaceful dissent than in all of 2012. Similarly, Reporters Without Borders ranks Vietnam as 172nd of 179 countries in its Press Freedom Index, and the independent watchdog organization Freedom House listed the country as "not free" along with Iran, Syria and Burma in its 2012 Freedom on the Net report.

In April Reps. Lofgren and Sanchez introduced H.R. 1682, the Fostering Rights through Economic Engagement in Vietnam ("FREE Vietnam") Act. The bipartisan bill would bar Vietnam from enjoying special U.S. trade preferences until the country's communist government takes serious measures to curb human rights abuses.

Click here to view the letter.

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