Tuesday, September 11, 2012 – Washington, D.C. –U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today spoke in favor of the Vietnam Human Rights Act (H.R. 1410), which prohibits an increase in non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam unless pro-democracy and human rights programs are supported. The bill also calls on Vietnam to increase its efforts to combat human trafficking, release political prisoners, and for the U.S. to aid in the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees . The measure passed the House by voice vote. Ros-Lehtinen made the following remarks in support of the bill:
“The Socialist Republic of Vietnam remains a gross human rights violator even as its trade with the U.S. grows. The people of Vietnam continue to be oppressed by their Communist jailers, unable to change their government or enjoy any semblance of the rule of law. Indeed, the most recent elections of May 2011 were neither free nor fair. Much like those living under the ruthless Castro regime in my native Cuba, Vietnamese citizens are subject to brutal treatment from police, inhumane prison conditions, and denial of the right to a free and fair and speedy trial. The judicial system is plagued by endemic corruption and inefficiency, and the Communist government has increasingly limited privacy rights and freedoms of the press, speech, assembly, movement, and association.”
“Freedom of religion is subject to interpretation by Communist authorities, with significant problems occurring at provincial and village levels. Violence and discrimination against women, as well as trafficking in persons, continue to torment the population. The sexual exploitation of children as well as hate crimes and discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status, all persist. As is the case with all Communist regimes, police often act with impunity. Cowardly hiding this egregious brutality from the civilized world, the Communist government prohibits independent human rights organizations from operating within its borders.
“All of this occurs while the U.S. continues to broaden trade with the Vietnamese dictators, completing a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA in 2007. We have increased our trade with Vietnam every year and have held a trade deficit with Vietnam every year since 1997. That is not the message we should send to these thugs. We should not reward this Communist dictatorship until the government of Vietnam has made substantial progress respecting political freedoms, media freedoms, and religious freedoms.
“Vietnam must also protect its minorities, give access to U.S. refugee programs, act to end trafficking in persons, and release its approximately 4,000 political prisoners. I urge my colleagues to join me in showing our solidarity for the people of Vietnam by passing this important bill today.
“Our nation has always served as a beacon of hope for all who are oppressed and suffer under regimes, such as the one in Vietnam, who have shown a blatant disregard for fundamental human rights and universal freedoms. We must continue to serve as such a beacon. We must not waiver in our commitment to standing with the oppressed and not with their oppressors. This bill serves as an important guidepost to have us do that.
“The Vietnam regime continues its oppression. On August 5th, they arrested about thirty peaceful demonstrators who were protesting China’s activities in the South China Sea, including an 81-year-old activist. And the threaten trial of three well-known human rights bloggers has further been postponed thus extending their unjust legal limbo. This human rights legislation is long overdue. It contains a provision prohibiting an increase in non-humanitarian assistance to the government of Vietnam unless certain human rights benchmarks are met and of course it has a presidential waiver, but it authorizes the President to provide assistance through appropriate non-governmental organizations and the Human Rights Defenders Fund for the support of individuals and organizations that are promoting internationally recognized human rights in Vietnam. This is an American principle, this should be a universal principle of human rights and respect for minority rights.”