Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, today continued to call for the firing of the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam and expressed disappointment that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to publicly raise the case of imprisoned democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan during her visit to Vietnam.
Wolf first called for Ambassador David Shear's firing on Monday after learning Shear failed to invite many of the most prominent democracy and human rights activists in Vietnam to a July 4 celebration at the U.S. embassy after promising Wolf he would. Wolf has asked for a copy of the list of invitees; as of this morning, the embassy has failed to provide it.
In a letter to Clinton today, Wolf said he believes Shear has a pattern of "sidelining" human rights issues. He cited his handling of the case of Quan, an American citizen who was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on April 17 and has been imprisoned ever since, as one example. The embassy had to be pushed by Wolf to visit Quan in prison. A piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal -- aptly headlined, "State Fumbles in Hanoi" -- echoed many of Wolf's concerns related to Shear and the State Department's overall commitment to and prioritization of human rights in our bilateral relations with Vietnam.
"The American ambassador must be a stalwart defender of dissidents and advocate for human rights," Wolf wrote. "Increasingly I hear from the Vietnamese-American community in the U.S. that they no longer have any confidence that Ambassador Shear is up to the task."
Wolf believes the next ambassador to Vietnam should be a Vietnamese-American.
In his letter, Wolf also made it clear that he was disappointed that Clinton failed to raise Quan's case in public.
Below is the text of Wolf's letter:
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C St NW Ste 7276
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
I write to follow-up on my letter of July 9 regarding Ambassador David Shear's deeply disappointing pattern of sidelining of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam. In fact I was so troubled by his approach that I urged you to fire him. I continue to believe that Ambassador Shear is not the man for the job. Furthermore, I am eager to know when the State Department will be able to provide me with a list of invited guests for the recent July 4 event held at the embassy.
I read with interest your public remarks earlier this week in Vietnam. While I appreciated your general comments regarding human rights concerns, I was disappointed to see no public mention of the imprisoned Vietnamese-American democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan.
As you know, I have been unreserved in my criticism of this administration's policies in China on a host of levels. But, I will gladly concede that I have seen a promising trend with Ambassador Gary Locke, himself a Chinese-American. In numerous meetings with dissidents, human rights lawyers and activists, I have learned that they have been welcomed into the embassy under Ambassador Locke's leadership. He has taken a personal interest in their cause. This is in keeping with the finest traditions of our nation's embassies over the years. It bears noting that Chinese human rights activists and self-trained legal advocate Chen Guangcheng recently sought refuge in the American embassy -- not the embassy of any other country.
The American embassy must a beacon for those seeking basic human freedom and dignity. The American ambassador must be a stalwart defender of dissidents and advocate for human rights. Increasingly I hear from the Vietnamese-American community in the U.S. that they no longer have any confidence that Ambassador Shear is up to the task.
I again urge you to remove Ambassador Shear and appoint a Vietnamese-American ambassador, preferably someone who is well versed, through personal experience, in the oppressive ways of Vietnam's communist government, to take his place. Such an individual would not need to be reminded that human rights and religious freedom advocacy feature prominently in their job description.
Member of Congress