Congressman wants ambassador to Vietnam fired over human rights issues

US Ambassador to Vietnam David B Shear CNA US Catholic News 7 11 12 U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David B. Shear.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has called for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear, charging that he has marginalized human rights and religious freedom concerns.

"Sadly, his sidelining of serious human rights issues in Vietnam is symptomatic of this administration's overall approach to human rights and religious freedom," the congressman said in a July 9 letter to President Barack Obama. "Time and again these issues are put on the back-burner -- to the detriment of freedom-loving people the world over."

Rep. Wolf said that U.S. embassies should be "islands of freedom – especially in repressive countries like Vietnam," but he criticized the U.S. embassy in Vietnam for appearing to not play this role.

Rep. Wolf, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, cited embassy inaction in the case of Vietnamese-American democracy activist and U.S. citizen Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, who was imprisoned after he was detained upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City this past April.

The embassy did not initiate contact with Quan's wife until Rep. Wolf asked. The congressman said there seemed to be "little urgency to securing his release."

He said that Ambassador Shear also failed to invite many of the most prominent democracy and human rights activists in Vietnam to the U.S. embassy's July 4 celebration, despite Rep. Wolf's urging that he open the embassy to Buddhist monks and nuns, Catholic priests, Protestant pastors and bloggers and democracy activists.

Rep. Wolf said that the ambassador should be replaced by a Vietnamese-American who would not be "tempted to maintain smooth bilateral relations at all costs."

In recent years Catholics have sought the return of confiscated Church property, but the dispute with the Vietnamese government has sometimes turned violent.

The government has also previously arrested Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, a religious freedom advocate, on charges of spreading anti-communist propaganda.

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