Activists: Put Human Rights First in Dealings with Communist Vietnam
In late June 2017, a group of Vietnamese-American activists led by Boat People SOS visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill to highlight key human rights issues:
Vietnamese communist government officials who are involved in torture and other human rights violations should be subject to sanctions under the Magnitsky Act which include prohibiting entry into the U.S. and use of the American banking system. A list of human rights violators has been compiled.
Vietnam should once again be designated a ‘country of particular concern’ under the Religious Freedom Act. It got off the list by making some token efforts, but went right back to persecuting its citizens for their religion.
All foreign aid to and trade deals with Vietnam should be suspended until the communist government releases all religious and political prisoners of conscience and the laws justifying their imprisonment are taken off the books. There are 200 such prisoners known to the activists, but there are undoubtedly more. They are in jail for such vague offenses as ‘injuring the national unity’ and ‘propaganda against the State’.
President Trump was slated to attend an APEC meeting (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in Vietnam in July, but activists urged Trump not go. The hotel where the meeting was to take place is on land confiscated from a Catholic parish. The Vietnamese communists seized the land without due process and only gave the parish token compensation. One person was killed in the taking. The parishioners continue to be persecuted. The activists provided a draft letter for lawmakers to send to the President on the issue.
The activists urged lawmakers to support the Vietnam Human Rights Act, to be reintroduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill, which passed the House previously, would require the State Department to monitor the human rights situation in Vietnam and report to Congress. It would also require the State Department to impose sanctions on Vietnam for human rights violations or explain to Congress why sanctions were not imposed.
Finally, the activists urged lawmakers to demand compensation from the communist government of Vietnam for land confiscated from
Vietnamese-Americans who are now U.S. citizens. Enormous pressure was applied in Europe on such matters after World War II, the activists noted.