At a press conference today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, signed on as lead cosponsor and spoke out in support of the Vietnam Human Rights Act. The legislation, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), blocks non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam if the Communist government fails to make progress regarding its political and religious prisoners.
"Sadly, Hanoi continues its war on religious freedom and human rights, just as it has been doing for decades. In fact, Vietnamese officials have brought their harassment of religious leaders, political dissidents, and student activists to new, draconian levels," said Royce.
Royce, the author of legislation that expanded Radio Free Asia's (RFA) broadcasts in this critical region of the world, praised the legislation's provisions designed to bolster RFA's impact in Vietnam. U.S.-backed Radio Free Asia is a "surrogate" broadcasting service, which is the only form of free press in Vietnam.
"With this legislation, Radio Free Asia will now be better able to bring objective news to the Vietnamese people. The spread of democratic values in Asia is critical to U.S. security interests.
"Vietnam has recently ratcheted up its efforts to block radio broadcasts from Radio Free Asia. This tells me that not only are these broadcasts having a positive effect in combating state propaganda, but Hanoi is feeling increased political pressure," said Royce.
Royce, who was condemned by the Communist government in Hanoi when he secretly met with Thich Quang Do and Le Quang Liem, also spoke of the encouragement that the Vietnam Human Rights Act will give dissidents inside Vietnam:
"The Vietnam Human Rights Act is an inspiration to the brave dissidents inside Vietnam who continue to be brutally repressed by Hanoi. The U.S. must continue to speak out. Silence is not an option," said Royce.
Rep. Ed Royce is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is co-chair emeritus of the Congressional Vietnam Caucus.