Legislation on the deteriorating state of human rights in Vietnam was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives today.
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) authored the bill, called Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013. H.R. 1897 would institute measures to improve human rights in Vietnam by prohibiting any increase in non-humanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam above Fiscal Year 2012 levels unless the government makes substantial progress in establishing a democracy and promoting human rights.
Approved by the full House of Representatives late this afternoon in a 405-3 vote, H.R. 1897 aims for improvement in freedom of religion expression, assembly and association, as well as the release of all political and religious prisoners, as well as independent journalists and labor activists, and an end to any government complicity in human trafficking.
“The purpose of this bipartisan legislation is simple: to send a clear, strong, and compelling message to the increasingly repressive communist regime in power in Vietnam that says that the United States is serious about combating human rights abuse in Vietnam,” said Smith who held an April 11 congressional hearing that detailed widespread abuses, as well as government officials’ involvement in trafficking Vietnamese women to Russia, Jordan and other locations. “The Government of Vietnam continues to expand control over all religious activities, severely restricting independent religious practice and to repress individuals and religious groups it views as challenging their authority,” Smith said, noting the rights and freedoms of Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants and other faiths, as well as journalists, are abused by the government. “There's at least 35 netizens, bloggers, journalists who write online who have been incarcerated by this dictatorship.” Click here to read Smith’s floor remarks calling for passage.
Smith held a congressional hearing on Vietnam in April, (click here to view Smith’s opening remarks at the hearing or witnesses’ testimony. Smith’s bill was subsequently passed by the House global human rights panel, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, which Smith chairs, on May 15. The bill was approved in a unanimous voice vote of the full Committee June 27.