Smith on the 45th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon…Pass HR 1383—the Vietnam Human Rights Act
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) released the following remarks today on the 45th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon for the Black April Memorial Event sponsored by Viet Tan of North America, TNT Media, and Democracy for Vietnam Association (watch the video here):
Forty-five years ago, the city of Saigon fell, and along with it the hopes of Vietnamese, Americans and allies who had endured over 20 years of fighting a grueling communist insurgency financed by the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union.
Over 500,000 South Vietnamese died fighting for their freedom, along with over 58,000 Americans—almost 1,500 from my home state of New Jersey including my next-door neighbor.
After Saigon fell, Communist Vietnam began fulfilling its dystopian vision for the country, locking up hundreds of thousands of innocent South Vietnamese in so-called “reeducation camps.”
That set the tone for the next 45 years, but tyranny by the government of Vietnam need not—and must not—be forever.
Today, Vietnam has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with credible reports of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention. There is no free media, nor freedom of religion. We estimate that Vietnam today is holding over 120 prisoners of conscience, jailed for their political or religious beliefs.
Consider the brave blogger Truong Duy Nhat, whom a corrupt Vietnamese court sentenced to ten years in jail in March. His case is especially disturbing since Vietnam abducted him from Thailand so that they could lock him up. His great crime was telling the truth about Vietnam.
Throughout my tenure in congress, I have chaired more than a dozen hearings on human rights, religious freedom, and democracy in Vietnam, authored five House-passed bills and three House-passed resolutions , amendments to ensure that no U.S. funds could be used to forcibly repatriate boat people (scattered throughout South Asia under the CPA) and I’ve travelled to Vietnam several times on human rights missions.
Joined by my colleagues Zoe Lofgren and Alan Lowenthal, I have again reintroduced the Vietnam Human Rights Act H.R. (1383) , to make it U.S. policy to assess and sanction Vietnamese officials and others complicit in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
The House of Representatives has passed my bipartisan Vietnam Human Rights Act five times—in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2013. It has been blocked ever since.
H.R.2833 - Viet Nam Human Rights Act of 2001 passed House… 9/6/2001
H.R.1587 - Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2004 passed House… 7/19/2004
H.R.3096 - Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007 passed House… 9/18/2007
H.R.1410 - Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012 passed House… 9/11/2012
H.R.1897 - Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013 passed House… 8/1/2013
H.R.1383 - Vietnam Human Rights Act ………. pending
So, I urgently request that you ask the House leadership and the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to approve H.R. 1383 now.
Remind them that while we would like to see better trade and security relations with the Vietnamese people, we need to remember that governments which brutally assault the fundamental human rights of their own people are unlikely to become trustworthy allies.
Thus, as the Vietnamese government seeks to expand trade and security relations with the United States, we must link tangible human rights improvements to better relations, including by seeking the release of all prisoners of conscience.
As we all cope with the COVID 19 crisis, it is particularly important that these prisoners be released on humanitarian grounds. Doing so would be one small step toward a Vietnam where the rights of all its citizens are respected.