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Public Statements

Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, I'm an original cosponsor of this bill, H.R. 1410. This is the Vietnam Human Rights Act. And I guess it's no surprise to a lot of us that have followed what has happened in Vietnam, it denies its citizens basic human rights.

But here's the problem: The conditions there with respect to abuse of rule of law are getting worse and worse.

It used to be that we would watch show trials in terms of the abridgement of rights of the citizens of Vietnam; now they don't even have the show trials. Now the government just places those dissidents in police detention, and they do it without alerting the family, without alerting anyone. And at that point, you just have to say the rule of law has become nonexistent.

We received a really stark reminder recently. Human rights dissident Nguyen Quoc Quan was arrested by Vietnamese officials. He had attempted to enter the country at Ho Chi Minh City's airport, and the charge that he was held on was terrorism. Terrorism was the original charge.

He didn't come to Vietnam equipped with guns or explosives. What's the terrorism charge? Well, he came to Vietnam to meet with other grassroots organizations committed to peaceful discussions on human rights inside the country. To the Vietnamese Communist Government, that's terrorism. That really says it all.

The case of Nguyen Quoc Quan is not an isolated case. His treatment there has become the rule, not the exception for those who are trying to push for some modicum of free speech or religious freedom, and so you have a whole slew of dissidents who are treated like this or even worse. When I say ``worse,'' I want to give you another example.

It is that of Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, a pastor of an outlawed Mennonite church. He was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison during a 1-day trial for ``sowing division between the Communist government and its citizens.'' Now, this treatment is nothing new for this particular pastor. To date, he has been aggressively interrogated over 300 times. He has suffered dozens of beatings, and some of us have seen the photographs of the aftermath of some of those brutal beatings. He has been forcefully removed from his residence many times and has been thrown in jail.

That is why it is imperative, my friends, that we pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act. I think the important point here is that this kind of action can be an inspiration to the brave dissidents inside Vietnam who continue to be brutally repressed. Part of this is to provide for information from Radio Free Asia to better be able to broadcast into the country, to better be able to shed light on this kind of activity, to leverage for change, and to bring objective news--to bring the truth--to be a surrogate-free radio station for the Vietnamese people. The spread of democratic values in Asia, frankly, is critical to our security interests as well.

I, myself, have met with some of the Vietnamese dissidents discussed here today, and I've been denounced by the Vietnamese Government for simply meeting with those whose only wish is the freedom to speak their minds. That tells me that the Vietnamese Government is sensitive to international criticism and that the United States must continue to speak out about this issue. I don't think silence is an option for us in the U.S.

In closing, I want to thank Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen for her focus on human rights. I want to thank the author here, Chris Smith, for his efforts, and Howard Berman, Congressman from California, for his work on behalf of the Vietnamese people.

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