House Passes Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013

Loretta with Do Phu

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez with O.C. Vietnamese community leader Do Phu.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed HR 1897, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013. This law will stop any non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam unless President Obama confirms that the government of Vietnam has met tangible basic human rights benchmarks including religious liberty, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of opinion.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, Thursday released a statement after the passage of the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013, of which she has been a cosponsor since the 107th Congress.

“I am pleased that the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013, H.R. 1897, has passed the House of Representatives a week after the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang’s visit to the White House.

“My House colleagues and I are sending a strong signal to the Obama Administration, State Department and the Government of Vietnam that we are committed to advocating countries like Vietnam to respect individuals’ rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of information.

“Vietnam’s egregious human rights abuses must stop, and if we have the power to influence change, we must use it. We need to pressure Vietnam directly and tangibly to improve its human rights record, and this bill will create positive change for the people of Vietnam. I will strongly advocate for its passage through the Senate.

“If the Vietnamese government wants to be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, access to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and security cooperation with the U.S., they must cease its dubious use of articles 79, 88, and 258 in the Vietnamese penal code. These articles are often used to justify the detention of citizens who peacefully advocate for religious and political freedom, and to prosecute citizens for peacefully expressing their views.  The scores of peaceful government critics who are unjustly imprisoned should be freed.  Government harassment of dissidents cannot be tolerated and Vietnamese authorities must respect open discussion and personal expression if Vietnam wishes to be fully integrated into the broader international community.