TLHRC Co-Chairs Statement on Human Rights in Vietnam
As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we express our deep concern over the state of human rights in Vietnam.
Since 1975, the Communist Party of Vietnam has exercised one-party rule, denying basic freedoms and stifling public discontent. As documented in the State Department’s 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights, the government severely restricts citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits citizens’ civil liberties, including freedom of assembly and expression; and provides inadequate protection of citizens’ due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention. The Vietnamese government has imprisoned people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion, using vaguely worded national security provisions. The government continues to control the registration of non-governmental organizations, including human rights organizations. According to the 2015 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report, 100 to 200 prisoners of conscience are detained in Vietnam, some for their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy. Government authorities restrict — and in some cases impose harsh punishment on —adherents of religious organizations that are not registered with the government.
Additionally, negotiations surrounding Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have shed light on the state of workers’ rights in Vietnam. Though workers are technically protected under labor laws, weak enforcement and exploitative employer practices mean thousands are deprived of safe and healthy workspaces, fair and accurate compensation, and the ability to collectively bargain. As documented by Human Rights Watch, Vietnamese workers’ rights fall short of international standards.
The president of Vietnam recently signed and promulgated significant amendments to the constitution, including a dedicated chapter on human rights, actions that merit recognition. However, the government has yet to enact implementing laws to realize concrete gains associated with this chapter. As our country seeks to expand economic and security relations with our former adversary, improving the state of human rights in Vietnam must remain a priority of U.S. foreign policy. As negotiations around the TPP continue, the U.S. government must ensure that any eventual agreement includes clear, targeted and enforceable human rights and labor rights standards.
As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we call on the government of Vietnam to stop the targeted suppression of pro-democracy and religious activists and commit to upholding the civil, political, and labor rights of its people.