Smith Demands Release of Vietnam Human Rights Advocate Nguyen Van Dai
Beating and Detention of Peaceful Activist Underscores Need for Administration to Prioritize Human Rights in U.S-Vietnam Relations
The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam Representatives—Chris Smith (NJ-04), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), join today to appeal to the Prime Minster of Vietnam appealing for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai. Mr. Dai is a respected human rights defender and founder of the “Brotherhood for Democracy,” an online group of formerly jailed political prisoners.
Smith, Lofgren, and Sanchez, write in the letter “[h]is arrest is the latest example in a series of aggressive state-sponsored actions taken against him, including a severe beating by plain clothes security officials earlier this month and a four year prison term that started almost immediately after Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization with the support of the United States.” They add “[t]he crime he has been charged with…‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ does not equate with his actions, which have been peaceful political expression, advocating for universally-recognized human rights, and providing legal assistance.” Click here to read the letter.
Congressman Smith has met Nguyen Van Dai and most of Vietnam’s prominent human rights and religious advocates, including Father Nguyen Van Ly and the Venerable Thich Quang Do, both of whom remain in some form of detention in Vietnam. Among the nations in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has the highest number of political prisoners.
To support the causes of human rights and democracy in Vietnam, Congressman Smith introduced the bipartisan Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2015. The bill stipulates that the Administration cannot increase funds to promote trade and some defense programs in Vietnam until the President certifies that the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress in establishing human rights protections. (Bill can be found here)
The Vietnam Human Rights Act would not prevent funding for certain types of humanitarian assistance, efforts to account for POWs/MIAs, food aid, programs to clean up Agent Orange and unexploded ordinances, or programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, and combating human trafficking.
“The Administration has promised Vietnam lucrative trade benefits as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and new security cooperation,” Smith said. “The American people should not have to subsidize torture or underwrite the jailing of journalists, religious leaders, labor activists, or advocates of democracy or Internet freedom. The bipartisan Vietnam Human Rights Act will restore the right priorities to U.S. policy toward Vietnam. The Communist Party is not Vietnam’s future, that future lies with Nguyen Van Dai and the many other advocates of political reform and human rights who seek our freedoms more than our trade. U.S. policy must send the unmistakable message to the Government of Vietnam that human rights improvements are fundamental to better relations, critically linked to our mutual economic and security interests, and will not be ignored or bargained away.”