Chairman Royce Urges President Obama to Make Human Rights Top Priority During Visit of Vietnamese President

Jul 22, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following letter he sent to President Obama last week urging him to make human rights a top priority during the upcoming visit with the President of Vietnam.

In the letter, Royce cites troubling statistics that reflect an increase in human rights abuses in Vietnam.  Royce’s letter concludes, “Mr. President, President Sang’s visit to Washington is a unique opportunity to inspire the Vietnamese people who are yearning for freedom. I respectfully request that you make the most of this chance by vocally supporting a human rights agenda.”

Chairman Royce is the author of H.Res. 218, legislation that calls on the State Department to re-list Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern” for its gross religious freedom violations.  Royce is also the lead cosponsor of the Vietnam Human Rights Act.

Chairman Royce will join other Members of Congress at a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday, July 23 at 9:15 a.m. at the House Triangle to urge President Obama to make Vietnam’s human rights abuses a top priority when he meets with Vietnam’s President later this week.

The signed letter to the President is available HERE.

The text of the letter follows:

July 18, 2013

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I urge you to make human rights a top priority during the upcoming visit of President Truong Tan Sang of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

As you know, Vietnam has long been as one of the most oppressive societies in Southeast Asia. Democratic aspirations, human rights advocacy, and grassroots mobilization are met with police brutality and result in show trials where defendants are denied their rights to open and fair proceedings as guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution.

In addition, the Vietnamese government has intensified its crackdown on free expression by increasing its efforts to censor the Internet, sponsoring cyber attacks, and blocking access to websites. Hanoi has also targeted the country’s diverse religious communities by confiscating and destroying church property and imprisoning the faithful for following their religious beliefs—even forcing some to renounce their beliefs.

Over 50 Vietnamese human rights advocates have been held in arbitrary detention this year alone. As one witness testified before the Asia Subcommittee earlier this year, “in the first six weeks of 2013, as many people have been convicted in political trials as in the whole of 2012.”  These statistics are deeply troubling, and reflect the current intolerable state of human rights in Vietnam.

This further backslide in the Vietnamese Government’s respect for human rights comes as the country is increasing its international engagement. However, if our two countries are to build a strong relationship, Vietnam must honor its citizens’ basic rights, including freedom of association and assembly, freedom of opinion, and freedom of religion. This is the basis upon which all aspects of our relationship should be built.

As you host the Vietnamese President, I respectfully urge you take the following steps to press his government to make meaningful changes that will improve the country’s human rights record:

·         Urge the President to respect true political freedom by repealing two security provisions, Articles 79 & 88 of the penal code, prohibiting freedom of association and expression.

·         Call for the release of human rights defenders and all other prisoners of conscience including attorney Le Quoc Quan, singer Viet Khang, and university students Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha.

·         Insist on the loosening of Internet restrictions including an end to the use of filtering technology, cyber attacks on bloggers, and the policy of blocking access to social media.

Mr. President, President Sang’s visit to Washington is a unique opportunity to inspire the Vietnamese people who are yearning for freedom. I respectfully request that you make the most of this chance by vocally supporting a human rights agenda.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.

Sincerely,

 

EDWARD R. ROYCE
Chairman

 

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