In light of human rights crackdown in Vietnam, hundreds of Vietnamese Americans to join Vietnam Advocacy Day in Congress

For Immediate Release
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July 9, 2018

On July 10, some 250 Vietnamese American advocates from 22 states will participate in the seventh annual Vietnam Advocacy Day. Through meetings to be held primarily on Capitol Hill throughout the day, participants will engage members of Congress in specific actions to ensure that religious freedom, workers’ rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, the unconditional release of all Vietnamese prisoners of conscience and fair compensation for property of U.S. citizens that the Vietnamese government has expropriated are included in the US government’s foreign policies towards Vietnam.

 Besides individual meetings, the event’s plenary session in the morning will feature a panel discussion on “Persecution Against Religious Communities – State and Non-State Actors.” Panelists will include US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Tony Perkins, Dr. Scott Flipse with Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Tony Tran with Association of Con Dau Parishioners and Michelle Nguyen with Vietnam Coalition Against Torture. Other speakers will include Senator John Cornyn (Republican, Texas); Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby of the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; human rights lawyer Jared Genser and Kate Barth of Freedom Now.

On July 11, a delegation of Vietnamese Americans will attend meetings with State Department officials, USCIRF commissioners, and staff of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Freedom House rates Vietnam as “Not Free” with one of the world’s most restrictive legal, press and internet environments. On June 12, Vietnam’s National Assembly passed a draconian cybersecurity law, further restricting internet freedom. According to the U.S. Embassy in Ha Noi, it “may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments.” Over the past few weeks, the public security police has violently assaulted and arrested hundreds of individuals who peacefully demonstrated against further restrictions on internet freedom and Vietnam’s law on special economic zones that would facilitate China’s territorial expansion and economic dominance in the region. At least one American citizen is among those beaten and arrested – he is being prosecuted for “disturbing public order.”

Vietnam has the most prisoners of conscience among all countries in Southeast Asia. Religious persecution has aggravated in the past 12 months. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again this year recommended that Vietnam be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” for egregious religious freedom abuses. Of the 169 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam as documented by human rights organizations, close to two thirds are religious prisoners. The Vietnamese government actively forces thousands of Hmong and Montagnard Christians to renounce their faith.

Historically, the Government of Vietnam has illegitimately seized property from lawful land owners, land users and owners of real estates such as houses, hotels, restaurants, theaters, factories, bank accounts… through expropriation without compensation. The expropriation process in Vietnam is associated with widespread allegations of corruption, lack of transparency, absence of due process, and oftentimes gross violations of human rights. Victims of land expropriations who contest unlawful or unjust practices are often threatened, arrested, and/or tortured by state authorities. Many American citizens and religious communities have fallen prey to Vietnam’s land expropriation policy.

At this year’s Vietnam Advocacy Day, participants will call on the U.S. government to:

1)      Designate Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) as recommended by USCIRF;

2)      Apply sanctions provided for in the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for acts of severe religious persecution and other gross human rights violations;

3)      Call on Vietnam to release all religious prisoners and other prisoners of conscience, repeal laws and decrees that violate or restrict human rights, and permit the existence of a real civil society consisting of genuinely independent non-governmental organizations;

4)      Support a claims settlement program for American citizens whose properties have been taken by the Vietnamese government without effective, prompt and fair compensation; and

5)      Support the passage of H.R. 5621, Vietnam Human Rights Act.

This advocacy movement started with the National Summit of Vietnamese American Leaders convened by Boat People SOS (BPSOS) in 2011. The first annual Vietnam Advocacy Day brought 500 advocates to the National Capital in 2012.

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