Calling on Vietnam to Respect Basic Human Rights and Cease Abusing Vague National Security Provisions

Floor Speech

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: Sept. 11, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 484) calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to respect basic human rights and cease abusing vague national security provisions such as articles 79 and 88 of the Vietnamese penal code, which are often the pretext to arrest and detain citizens who peacefully advocate for religious and political freedom, as amended.


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of House Resolution 484, a bipartisan resolution of Loretta Sanchez, a bill of which I am a cosponsor.

This resolution calls on the Vietnamese authorities to ``respect basic human rights and cease abusing vague national security provisions such as articles 79 and 88 of the Vietnamese penal code.'' These draconian legal measures are often used to arrest and detain citizens who peacefully advocate for political and religious freedom.

When the Bush administration signed the bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam in the year 2006, which paved the way for Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization the next year, the Congress was assured that trade liberalization with Hanoi would lead, inevitably, to political liberalization.

This proved, however, to be as spurious a promise as one made by the Clinton administration, which vowed that the liberalization of trade would open the door to democracy and human rights in China. The siren song that trade is the panacea for ending totalitarian oppression is directly contradicted by reports of deteriorating human rights conditions in both Vietnam and China.

As Hanoi comes increasingly to Washington seeking strategic support for its dispute with the Chinese in the South China Sea, one can only ask, why are we not using Hanoi's concerns in the South China Sea as leverage to win greater concessions on the dismal human rights conditions in Vietnam?

Why would we even consider helping Vietnam against Chinese bullying as long as Hanoi holds behind bars United States citizen Dr. Quan. Dr. Quan is a mathematician, and he has been detained in Vietnam since he returned there for a family visit in April.

This resolution spells out in great detail how Hanoi makes use of the security provisions contained in articles 79 and 88 to continue to detain such noted democracy advocates as Father Ly.

Article 88's provision regarding propaganda against the State gives Hanoi great leeway in detaining and imprisoning human rights activists, writers, those who advocate for democracy, journalists, Internet bloggers, the list goes on.

The repeal of articles 79 and 88, and the release of all political prisoners, as called for in this important resolution, would represent first steps away from the continued totalitarian oppression of the Vietnamese regime. Our State Department should not put concern for human rights and the protection of the rights of U.S. citizens on a back burner while we pursue commercial and strategic opportunities with the leaders in Hanoi.

We in Washington must be of one voice in strongly condemning the continuing crackdown on human rights and democracy in Vietnam. We should also remember that without the rule of law, it is not only democracy advocates who are put at risk, but also those whose special contracts will prove to be worthless pieces of paper.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to give their strong and unwavering support for this resolution.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Just in closing, I would hope some of these impassioned speakers on behalf of respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law for the people of Vietnam, as meritorious as they are, I hope that they're extended to my native homeland of Cuba as well. May we hear those voices on the House floor calling for those same characteristics for the people of Cuba.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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