U.S. Representatives send protest letter to Vietnamese president

.- Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, along with other U.S. House members, has written a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet expressing their concern over the Vietnamese government’s recent human rights violations. The letter details some recent incidents of violence, harassment, and arrests of protesters.

"In the last month, Vietnam has intensified its campaign of violence against peaceful protesters", said Sanchez in a statement. "I hope the Bush administration will take a stand against the Government of Vietnam's continued violence and its violations of International Covenants. Vietnam must make swift changes to maintain a positive relationship with the United States."

The September 18 letter, which was obtained by CNA, is signed by Rep. Sanchez, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), and Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN). The letter is copied to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

“We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the Government of Vietnam's ongoing human rights violations and harassment of democracy activists,” the congressmen’s letter begins.

“The International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam signed onto, grants citizens the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association,” the letter continues. “However, the Government of Vietnam's commitment to human rights remains questionable as citizens are persistently repressed and harassed for exercising their freedom of speech.”

The letter references a recent prayer vigil at the Redemptorists’ Thai Ha Church, also the focus of a property dispute, which the congressmen said was attended by over 3,000 Catholics.

At Thai Ha, they write, “Hanoi’s police harassed the crowd with tear gas, electric batons, and other repressive measures. We are extremely alarmed by these acts of violence by the Vietnamese government.”

Additionally, the letter notes the secret police’s detention of Le Thi Kim Thu, Pham Van Troi, members of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, and also Nguyen Xuan Nghia, who is a leader of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy group.

The congressmen also mention the arrest and sentencing of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, commonly known as Dieu Cay, to 30 months in prison for writing on topics concerning corruption, worker exploitation, and police brutality. 

According to the congressmen, a number of other bloggers are under house arrest because of their opposition to the Vietnamese government.

“As Members of Congress, we would also reiterate that Vietnam's commitment to human rights is integral to maintaining a positive US-Vietnam relationship,” the congressmen’s September 18 letter concludes.

“Peaceful protests, prayer vigils and blogging are all forms of peaceful expression that people in Vietnam have the right to utilize in order to express themselves. We urge the Government of Vietnam to stop harassing their citizens and recognize every individual's right to freedom of speech, religion and expression.”

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