Vietnam Human Rights Amendment Approved by Foreign Affairs Committee
The deplorable condition of human rights in Vietnam are addressed in an amendment approved by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs July 21. Offered by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House Subcommittee that oversees human rights issues, the measure has been included in H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and now moves to the House floor.
“This amendment seeks to take meaningful action to finally overcome the serious human rights abuses suffered by the Vietnamese people at the hands of their dictatorship government,” said Smith. “The human rights situation in Vietnam has gotten worse over the past few years even as Hanoi seeks better relations with the United States. The government has not been afraid to oppress its own citizens who only seek basic rights. Victims have been jailed and harassed just for practicing their faith and standing up for what they believe in.” To read Smith amendment on Vietnam human rights, click here.
The amendment would prohibit any increase in U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam authorized by the 2012 authorization act unless those increased U.S. funds are commensurate with funding for human rights and democracy programs. It also prohibits non-humanitarian aid authorized by the act unless the President certifies to Congress that Vietnam has improved its human rights record, including the release of all political and religious prisoners, and protects the right to freedom of assembly, religious expression and association. It allows the President to waive the prohibition, if in the national interest of the United States. In addition, the amendment expresses U.S. policy in overcoming Hanoi’s jamming of Radio Free Asia.
Since Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2007, the amendment notes, the Government of Vietnam arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned numerous citizens for their peaceful advocacy of religious freedom, democracy, and human rights, including Father Nguyen Van Ly, human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, Cu Huy Ha Vu, and Le Cong Dinh, and bloggers Nguyen Van Hai and Phan Thanh Hai. The Government has also not improved labor rights, and arrests and harasses labor leaders, and restricts workers rights to organize independently.
A related bill authored by Smith, “The Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011,” H.R. 1410, was introduced April 7 to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam by setting restrictions on U.S. aid while allowing humanitarian assistance to continue.
Smith chairs two congressional human rights panels: the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, and the U.S. Helsinki Commission. He is also an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.