Human rights activists and victims of ongoing abuses at the hands of the Vietnamese Government testified before a House human rights panel hearing Tuesday chaired by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
"The Vietnamese government continues to be an egregious violator of a broad array of human rights," said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Despite the State Department's decision in 2006 to remove Vietnam from the list of Countries of Particular Concern as designated pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act, Vietnam, in fact, continues to be among the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. According to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom's 2011 Annual Report, "[t]he government of Vietnam continues to control religious communities, severely restrict and penalize independent religious practice, and brutally repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging its authority."Click here to read Smith's opening remarks
Testifying before the human rights subcommittee were (click on name to read testimony): Anh "Joseph" Cao, former Member of the U.S. Congress; Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang Ph.D., Executive Director, Boat People SOS; Rong Nay, Executive Director of the Montagnard Human Rights Organization; Phuong-Anh Vu, victim of human trafficking, and; John Sifton, Advocacy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch. Click here to watch the hearing (advance approx. 10 minutes to 2 p.m. start time)
Smith, a longtime human rights advocate in Congress, authored "The Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011," H.R. 1410. The bill was introduced in 2011 to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam by setting restrictions on U.S. aid while allowing humanitarian assistance to continue. H.R. 1410 prohibits U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam over current levels unless increased U.S. dollars for programs including economic, environmental and military initiatives are commensurate with U.S. funding for human rights and democracy programs in Vietnam. It also prohibits non-humanitarian aid unless the President certifies to Congress that Vietnam has dramatically improved its human rights record, specifically including the release of all political and religious prisoners, and protects the right to freedom of assembly, religious expression and association. The bill seeks substantial progress towards repealing or revising laws that criminalize democracy related activities. The legislation also grants the President the ability to waive the prohibition, if such a waiver would promote the purpose of the act or is in the national interest of the United States. It authorizes the President to provide assistance to promote internationally recognized human rights in Vietnam, to promote educational and cultural exchange programs with Vietnam, and expresses U.S. policy in addressing Hanoi's jamming of Radio Free Asia. The bill also requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on the progress of human rights in Vietnam.