Hearing highlights human rights abuses in Vietnam
By Michelle Bauman
Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Ed Royce (far right) at the Jan. 24, 2012 subcommittee hearing on human rights abuses in Vietnam
Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Ed Royce (far right) at the Jan. 24, 2012 subcommittee hearing on human rights abuses in Vietnam

.- Witnesses at a Jan. 24 House subcommittee hearing on human rights abuses in Vietnam urged the U.S. government to intervene on behalf of those who are oppressed in other countries.

Former U.S. congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao testified that the repression of minorities in Vietnam is growing worse.

The country “has no intention of keeping the promise that it made to the U.S. congress in 2006” to improve its human rights record, he said.

Cao was one of the witnesses at the Tuesday afternoon hearing, which focused on the suppression of ethnic and religious minorities in Vietnam, as well as human trafficking that involves both labor and sexual abuse. 

The former congressman described how Vietnamese authorities exert pressure on religious groups to make them submit to government control. Those who do not “are often harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or put under house arrest.”

Cao recounted for those present how the land and facilities of Thai Ha Catholic parish in Hanoi were seized by the government.

He also testified that Catholic priests and the leaders of other minority religious groups are threatened and sometimes subject to violence.

“Faced with these atrocities, the Obama administration’s approach is to stand by and watch,” Cao charged.

Human trafficking victim Phuong-Anh Vu, another witness, described her experience as both a Catholic and a Hmong, a minority ethnic group in Vietnam.
She related how she was deceived into participating in a labor export program, in which she was taken to Jordan and forced to work long hours in poor conditions for one dollar per day.

Vu said that she and her companions were physically abused by both security guards and local police, with the knowledge and support of a delegation from the Vietnamese government.

Several other witnesses called on the U.S. government to address the human rights violations in Vietnam, noting that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the State Department to add the country to its list of “countries of particular concern.”

This status indicates that a nation’s government has “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” and opens the door to economic sanctions or other U.S. penalties.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House of Representative’s foreign affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, encouraged the U.S. to act swiftly to “exert pressure on the government to cease these abuses.”

Last year the congressman introduced the Vietnam Human Rights Act, a bill that would prohibit an increase in non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam unless the country meets certain requirements in respecting human rights, including religious freedom and the rights of minorities.

He called on the U.S. government to adopt his legislation and take other measures to end the Vietnamese violation of a “broad array of human rights.”

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