A ceremony to celebrate Vietnam’s Human Rights Day on May 11, 2016, at the US Congress. A group of US bipartisan congressmen has just introduced the Vietnam Human Rights Act which introduces effective measures to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam.
A bipartisan group of members of the US House of Representatives has introduced a law on human rights in Vietnam to hold officials of the Southeast Asian communist nation “accountable for serious human rights abuses while also helping give priority to the protection of freedoms and the development of the rule of law state in Vietnam.”
The Vietnam Human Rights Act, HR 3001, is represented by MPs Chris Smith, Republican member representing New Jersey state, and Ms. Zoe Lofgren as well as Mr. Alan Lowenthal, both Democrats and representatives of the state of California, co-chaired and launched just before the Human Rights Day for Vietnam May 11.
“Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of the Internet, independent unions, the protection of women and girls from trafficking, and advances in the rule of law should be essential components of any US-led effort to ensure that Vietnam and the Indo-Pacific are free and open,” Rep. Smith, who presided over 11 hearings on Vietnamese human rights, said in a statement released on May 6 when announcing the bicameral law.
Vietnam’s human rights record has often been criticized by Western governments and international human rights organizations, but Hanoi has voiced its objections. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam’s human rights record is “terrible in many ways,” from freedom of speech to freedom of religion, in which the Communist Party maintains a political monopoly, does not allow any challenge to threaten party leadership.
“Sadly, the Communist government of Vietnam continues to be one of the worst human rights abusers and blatantly refuses to respect the rights that Vietnamese citizens enjoy under their laws,” Dan Lowenthal representative, District 47, said in the statement. “This act shows the government of Vietnam that we are not only monitoring but will continue to fight for the human rights of the Vietnamese people.”
“Our bipartisan Vietnam Human Rights Act will help provide the Vietnamese people with the tools and information they need to fight change from within, and it will force the government Vietnam responsible for the atrocities,” Rep. Lofgren, who represents District 19, where one of the largest Vietnamese-American communities in the US lives, said in a statement released on May 6.
The US State Department’s human rights report released on March 30 states that Vietnam, which is receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the US, is a dictator under the sole rule of the Communist Party and there are many “remarkable” human rights issues.
However, Vietnam has always rejected human rights reports from the US and international organizations and asserted that “Vietnam’s consistent policy is to protect and promote human rights.”
Together with the sponsorship of other congressmen like Lou Correa, a Democrat representing District 46 in California, Young Kim and Michelle Steel, both Republicans representing Districts 39 and 48 in California respectively. This bipartisan act will allow the US to impose sanctions on Vietnamese officials and systematically recognized violators of human rights, especially those of serious religious violations.
The Joe Biden administration places human rights at the heart of Washington’s foreign policy and in Washington’s approach to global problems.
Congressman Smith, the author of this bill, has introduced the Vietnam Human Rights Act three times to the US Congress. Previous versions were approved by the US House of Representatives when they received overwhelming support from bipartisan members but were delayed in the Senate.
This is the latest effort by Congressman Smith, who served as chairman of the US House of Representatives human rights subcommittee, to come up with effective measures to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam.
“This bill sends a strong bipartisan message that a freer Vietnam – which has the potential to be a strategic anchor for the region and a close ally of the United States – is in the important national interest of America,” Rep. Smith said in a statement.
Vietnam has not responded immediately to the publication of the Vietnam Human Rights Act, but Hanoi has previously said that the US human rights report is “non-objective, citing false information about Vietnam.”
Human Rights Day for Vietnam is annually held on May 11 in the US after being appointed by a joint resolution passed by the US Congress in 1994.