House Passes Smith’s Resolution Calling for Human Rights Reform in Vietnam
Smith resolution calls for an immediate release of Father Ly, other political prisoners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to a recent, well-orchestrated campaign of political suppression and intimidation by the Government of Vietnam, the U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed a resolution authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that calls for an immediate release of all political prisoners and substantial human rights reforms in Vietnam .

“H. Res. 243 is intended to send a critical and timely message to the Vietnamese Government that these serious violations of basic human rights are unacceptable and bring profound dishonor on the government of Vietnam . These human rights violations cannot be overlooked or continue without equally serious consequences,” Smith said yesterday on floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Smith’s resolution (H.Res. 243) calls on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including Father Nguyen VanLy and those who have been arrested in a recent wave of government oppression.  The resolution also calls for the Government of Vietnam to comply with internationally recognized standards for basic freedoms and human rights.

H.Res. 243 passed the House by a vote of 404-0, with 3 members voting present.

In November 2006, pursuant to assurances that the human rights situation in Vietnam had improved dramatically, the U.S. State Department removed Vietnam from the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” so designated pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act.  Late last year, the United States Congress agreed to Vietnam becoming an official member of the World Trade Organization.  Recently, the group of Asian countries at the United Nations has nominated Vietnam as the sole regional candidate for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2008-2009.

Despite this flurry of international recognition and tangible economic benefit, despite the hopes of many—including and especially the Vietnamese people—Vietnam has reverted back to its repressive practices and has arrested and imposed lengthy prison sentences on numerous individuals whose only crime has been to seek democratic reform and respect for human rights in their country,” Smith said during House consideration of his resolution.

Earlier this year, the parish house of Father Ly—a former prisoner of conscience who spent over 13 years in prison—was raided. Father Ly was moved to a remote location and placed under house arrest.  Father Ly is an advisor to “Block 8406”—a democracy movement which started last April—and a new political party, the Vietnam Progression Party.

On March 30th, Father Ly was sentenced to 8 years in prison for distributing “anti-government” materials.

“I have been to Vietnam and have met with Father Ly and a number of other democracy advocates who are now behind bars or under constant surveillance and harassment in Vietnam .  The intimidation and persecution of these peaceful activists must end.  It is not enough for the Government of Vietnam to talk reform—they must also show progress through their deeds,” Smith said.

Father Ly was among a number of dissidents swept up in a recent crackdown in Vietnam .  Earlier this month, Vietnamese police arrested another member of “Block 8406,” principal spokesperson for the Vietnam Progression Party and the founder of the Vietnamese Labor Movement, Le Thi Cong Nhan.  On the same day—March 6, 2007—Vietnamese police arrested one of Vietnam ’s few practicing human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Dai.

A similar Smith-authored resolution condemning human rights abuses in Vietnam and calling on the Government of Vietnam to release political prisoners passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. 

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2007
Contact:  Patrick Creamer (202) 225-3765
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