After an exciting event at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, the Resolution on human rights for Vietnam was passed at 4:30 p.m. on January 21. Most of the Congressmen representing the countries of Western Europe, Northern Europe, and Eastern Europe spoke out. The indulgence of participation shows that they follow and understand the dire human rights situation in Vietnam, especially the Eastern Europeans who firmly grasp the communist ideology through their analysis and critique. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Congressmen were unable to be present in person but still attended via long-distance video.
Compared to the discussions on Vietnam’s issues in the past, this event is very drastic, because of the outraged sense of Hanoi’s betrayal of its promise of human rights and fundamental freedoms to have the EVFTA Agreement. After signing the agreement, Hanoi had brushed off its hands to suppress human rights. Many Congressmen directly demanded that the EU either suspend the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) or rebuild the tariff barriers for Vietnam that the agreement has canceled.
The Resolution of the European Parliament includes 15 comments and 23 claims that cover all of the human rights violations that are occurring. The resolution identified Vietnam as “the country that holds the largest political prisoners in Southeast Asia” and “condemns the oppression of increasing dissidents and human rights abuses in Vietnam, including condemnation, political threats, stalking, harassment, assault, unfair trial and the expulsion of political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents, and human rights activists in foreign countries because they behave freely, it is clear that Vietnam violates its international obligations.”
The resolution pays special attention to the arbitrary arrest and conviction of three journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, the founder, and member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam requesting release immediately and unconditionally and unconditionally all political prisoners, human rights activists, environmentalists, trade unions, because they exercise their right to freedom of expression, and dismiss their sentences.”
In conclusion, the Resolution of the European Parliament calls for “Members of the European Union, especially on the eve of the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, to speak out strongly about the terrible human rights situation in Vietnam; encourage the Union and its member states to increase their international efforts to promote joint initiatives with like-minded partners, and in particular with the US new administration to request Vietnam to respect its human rights commitments.”
The following are some statements made by Congressmen at the plenary on January 21 before the resolution was passed by reporter Ỷ Lan.
Rep. Saskia Bricmont (Green Party, Belgian) said:
Two years ago, this Parliament passed a Resolution on the destiny of political prisoners in Vietnam. Then nearly a year ago, the European Parliament approved the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). Although many showed their doubts, its supporters affirmed that EVFTA will help improve human rights for the entire Vietnamese people.
Since then, the persecution has increased. Trade policy and human rights are two factors not related to each other? It is not far-reaching for the case of Pham Chi Dung, chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam. He was arrested days after giving us a critical look at the EVFTA approval process. Sentenced to 15 years in prison for that critical look – with Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan, Dung and his two colleagues are at the heart of our claim to unconditional release them today. The delegation of the EU Foreign Affairs Commission in Hanoi continues to be concerned about hundreds of judgments against peaceful activists, and at the same time is aware of the narrowing of the space for free speech, the right to protest, and the right to the association at Vietnam. Therefore, our Resolution calls for the release of three journalists and human rights activists, improving prison conditions, especially in the current context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, giving an injunction to postpone the death penalty, as well as a reminder of Vietnam’s obligations to their people, to the EU and to the global community.
Rep. Adam Bielen (European Conservative and Reform Party, Poles) said:
The EU has just opened its arms to Vietnam via EVFTA, expanding the horizons for Vietnamese and European businessmen. But we cannot close our eyes to the human rights abuses that happen to our economic partners. Today we call on the Vietnamese Government to immediately release the three convicted journalists and all journalists, bloggers, and human rights activists imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.
Last year, while we finished EVFTA, Reporters Without Borders was about to rank Vietnam 175th on the List of Countries Respecting Press Freedom, behind Syria. This is the\e reasons why we are pushing Vietnam to end arbitrary censorship of the media, independent media, and to remove restrictions on online media sources.
Congresswoman Marianne Vind (Socialist Party, Danes) said:
We always want to work with Vietnam to help the working class escape poverty and enjoy all freedoms. Working together makes us stronger. But Vietnam’s human rights situation is getting worse. Pham Chi Dung was arrested for objecting EVFTA’s early approval, which is unacceptable. Such arrest not only violated his basic rights but also attempted to intimidate journalists who criticized the government. The Criminal Code was amended, but it was in the wrong direction. Vietnam must understand that our relationship is based on mutual agreement, mutual participation in the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. Through today’s Resolution, we send a resolute message.
Rep. Petras Austrevicius (New Party, Lithuanians) said:
Vietnam is rapidly reforming its economy, but also violating all areas of human rights. We are seeing increased repression on the basis of civil and political rights in this country. Freedom of the press was crushed by the State media. Censorship is on the rise, with Cyber Security Law giving full control over social media sources. All critics are imprisoned. Pham Chi Dung alerted us to the illusory promises made by the Vietnamese government to usurp the EVFTA of the EU. We should have obeyed him. Now the European Union must use all means to support these three journalists along with hundreds of other prisoners just because they behave according to conscience.
Vietnam’s economic growth depends on EVFTA. If the Vietnamese government only understands the language of economic interests, then let’s rebuild the tariff barrier against Vietnam.
Representative Sean Kelly (European Popular Party, Irish) said:
Vietnam is a beautiful country with wonderful people. All in all, but we cannot be quiet when the human rights situation worsens. The Vietnamese government must respect every piece of legislation, nationally and internationally, related to the protection and promotion of human rights. Three journalists were jailed just because they spoke freely. I urge the EU to pressure Vietnam to immediately and irregularly release them.
Rep. Antonio-Isturiz White (European Popular Party, Spaniard) said:
Vietnam’s decline in human rights is obvious. Everyone knows. The Communist Party has been in power for many years but has never been able to vote freely, and they keep persecuting them to liking anyone who criticizes human rights violations. I hope all the political parties in the EU come together to pressure change in Vietnam and that their administration is subject to proper business relations with the EU.
Congresswoman Maria Arena (Social & Democracy Union, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Division of the European Parliament) said:
My statements are not directed towards the dictatorial Vietnamese Communist regime. Because I don’t believe they want to respect human rights. I want to direct my speech towards European Democracy.
On February 12, 2020, this parliament ratified the EVFTA. Even though we have all the reports from 2018, 2019, 2020 by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc., denouncing crimes and violations of fundamental rights of Vietnamese people. Rapporteur on the Inter-European Union International Trade Commission (INTA), Mr. Bourgeois holds these files, he also went to Vietnam when he was Minister in the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium. You must know these facts. Yet he never spoke up about the issue of Human Rights. The Rapporteur himself also sang that, if we see serious and scale human rights violations, we will have to remove all trade incentives for Vietnam. Really? Now I look to Mr. Bourgeois and to the European Commission. Those serious, still-existent transgressions, already exist and will continue to be.
Therefore, I ask the EU to suspend the Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam.
Rep. Karin Karlsbro (New Party, Swedish) said:
EVFTA with Vietnam is an ambitious agreement that the EU has never signed with a developed country. The day we ratified the agreement, we not only look forward to mutual benefits but also expect opportunities to advance democracy and human rights. But today’s human rights situation in Vietnam is unacceptable. We demand the immediate release of three journalists and political prisoners. Now is the time to put pressure on Vietnam and to use the EVFTA as a forum to support civil society. When we ratified the EVFTA, we also called upon the European Commission and the Commission on Foreign Affairs of the European Union to promptly implement the human rights impact set out in the agreement.
Rep. Paryk Jaki (European Popular Party, Poles) said:
This is the end of Communism, always. Vietnam is the best example because Communism is an ideology that violates all logic and reason. If being Communist, free speech must be stifled, because communist knowledge cannot accept discussion and criticism. We have seen three journalists sentenced to 15 years in prison, which is unacceptable. The European Union must strongly step forward to resist the Vietnamese behavior. We must also pay attention to highly skilled companies like Google and Facebook that are backing the Vietnamese government’s efforts to abolish free speech.
Congresswoman Isabel Wiseler-Lima (European Popular Party, Luxembourgers) said:
A year ago the EU ratified the EVFTA. However, there are fervent concerns regarding whether the Vietnamese communist government is committed to respecting human rights and international labor law.
Therefore, we have added to the agreement the establishment of independent complaints and monitoring mechanisms so that citizens can have effective access to aid. These mechanisms have yet to be implemented. We urge the European Commission and the Vietnamese Government to immediately establish these mechanisms. In particular, we offend Pham Chi Dung’s imprisonment for contacting the European Parliament members in the context of free exchange and investment. The European Parliament calls on Vietnamese authorities to immediately release Dung, as well as other journalists and human rights activists who are being unfairly imprisoned.
Rep. Pascal Durand (New Party, French) said with an ironic ending:
Like my outstanding fellow, Maria Arena, I don’t want to address the totalitarian Vietnamese dictator. I want to speak to the European Commission, who is guarding the Agreements. So what do the agreements say? Article 21 of the EU Treaty clearly states: The action of the Union on the international arena is based on pre-founding principles, aimed at promoting democracy, the rule of law, universal human rights, and in the whole world indivisible freedoms.
Therefore, Madame President of the European Commission, please make sure these principles are applied and respected. If that is not possible, then for the sake of intellectual honesty, add a paragraph to the Treaty, stating that the above principles will cancel, when they threaten European markets and interests.