FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ryan Goodwin(202) 225-3765
November 27, 2007

Smith Blasts VietnamGovernment for Failure to

Release Pro-Democracy Activists

Calls for Immediate Release of Political Prisoners and

 Passage of Smith-authored Vietnam Human Rights Act into Law

WASHINGTON–“Today’s decision by Vietnam’s Supreme Appeals Court touphold bogus jail sentences for pro-democracy advocates Nguyen Van Dai and LeThi Cong marks another in a series of shamtrials and is further evidence that the regime in Hanoi continues to carry-outhuman rights abuses with impunity,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)a leading human rights lawmaker in the U.S. Congress.

Smithadded, “Some of the finest human rights activists are persecuted bythe Government of Vietnamand we will continue to work for real justice and their release.”

Smith’scomments were in response to today’s reports that the Supreme AppealsCourt in Hanoiupheld the previous conviction of human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and LeThi Cong .  Citing good behavior and pasthistory, the Court reduced the sentences of Dai and by one year each while still unjustly maintaining the bulk of their prisonterms. 

“TheU.S. government must take a stand against these repeated abuses and let theVietnamese Government know that continued human rights violations will not gounnoticed or unpunished,” said Smith, author oflegislation promoting human rights in Vietnam.

OnSeptember 18, 2007, by a resounding vote of 414-3, the U.S. House of Representativesforcefully condemned human rights abuses in Vietnam and approved the“Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007” to sanction the VietnameseGovernment until real progress is made on the release of political prisonersand other fundamental human rights reforms take place.

“Today’sdeplorable events reiterate the need to immediately bar U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to theGovernment of Vietnam,” saidSmith.

Specifically,Smith’s bill, H.R. 3096, prohibits increased U.S. non-humanitarianassistance to the Government of Vietnam unless there is verifiable evidencethat the Vietnamese Government has made substantial progress towards therelease of its political and religious prisoners, respecting the right tofreedom of religion, returning properties, allowing free and open access torefugee programs, respecting the human rights of members of all ethnic minoritygroups, and taking appropriate steps to end trafficking in persons.

Additionally,Smith’s bill authorizes $4 million over two years for organizations andindividuals that promote human rights in Vietnam, authorizes over $10 millionto help stop the Vietnamese Government’s jamming of Radio Free Asia, andrequires the State Department to issue an annual report on the progress ofhuman rights reform in Vietnam.

The“Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007” does not restrict anyhumanitarian assistance to the people of Vietnam—includingassistance to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS—in any way.

Smithintroduced bills similar to the “Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007”in the 107th Congress (H.R. 2833) and 108th Congress (H.R. 1587) and both timesthey passed the House, but were never taken up in Senate.

Smithcalled on his colleagues in the Senate not to let this year’s bill meetthe same fate.

“Onbehalf of those who are risking their freedom and their lives in Vietnam toobtain democracy for their fellow citizens and their country, I would pleadwith my distinguished colleagues in the Senate not to allow economic or otherinterests to obstruct these measures that will assist them in theirefforts,” Smith said.

Earlierthis year, the House also nearly unanimously passed a Smith-authored resolution(H Res 243) calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam tounconditionally release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,including Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong .

______________________

Ryan Goodwin

Communications Director& Legislative Assistant

Congressman Christopher H.Smith

2373 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-3765

Fax: 202-225-7768

For the latest news onRep. Smith
please visit
www.house.gov/chrissmith

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