The end of this weekend will bring a new opportunity for human rights improvements in Vietnam. Meetings between Australian and Vietnamese officials in Hanoi on July 28th-30th will center on human rights dialogue.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges Australia to “call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Vietnam.” In a recent article (click here), HRW asked for Australian officials to be especially mindful of the prisoners who are facing health issues. Both Dinh Dang Dinh and Huynh Anh Tri died shortly after their releases form custody. HRW states that prisoners Mai Thi Dung, Ngo Hao, Nguyen Van Lia, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, Father Nguyen Van Ly, Ho Thi Bich Khuong, Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Dang Xuan Dieu all face health issues.
As demonstrated by these upcoming Australia-Vietnam talks, the international spotlight continues to land on Vietnam. China-Vietnam tensions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a visit from the UN regarding religious freedom, and the recent Universal Periodic Review/Vietnam’s contested seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are making headlines. However, even as international exposure increases, the Vietnamese government’s attack on freedom of expression is not slowing down.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), the Vietnamese government has recently starting shutting down Facebook profiles and pages of dissidents, through reports of website abuse, as Facebook membership continues to hold vast popularity in Vietnam. The government is maintaining its reign of censorship over the country’s media outlets, despite reports to the contrary.
Additionally, at virtually the same time as the UN visit to report on religious freedom in Vietnam (from July 21-31st), many Vietnamese dissidents have been placed on house arrest.
RFA reports that 150 to 200 people are currently imprisoned in Vietnam for “exercising their basic rights (RFA article).” The news site warns that though some prominent activists were released from prison so far in 2014, fourteen others have been imprisoned.
However, Vietnam’s actions are not going entirely unnoticed. California US Rep Loretta Sanchez, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, has expressed her concerns about entering into the TPP with Vietnam. This article highlights her remarks.
An excerpt from the article:
“I am here today to join my colleagues in expressing my serious concerns over the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, especially in terms of the possibility of yet another trade deal with the government of Vietnam. As the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, I have been working on the ongoing human rights crisis in Vietnam, including its severe labor rights issues, for the past 18 years.
“What I have seen in the past 18 years is that despite trade agreements and increased defense cooperation with the U.S., the Vietnamese government has refused to take any significant steps to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.”
Also, Virgina US Representative Gerry Connolly, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, tweeted this on July 16th: “Glad to join constituents for Vietnam Freedom and Democracy Day.Respect for human rights: American principle we hope all nations would adopt.”
The House Committee of Foreign Affairs recently held a hearing on human rights in Southeast Asia. You can take a look at it, here: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/hearing-spotlighting-human-rights-southeast-asia
Take to your social media sites and Tweet, blog, and post about the Australia-Vietnam dialogue. Encourage Australia to push for human rights in Vietnam and to remind Vietnam of its commitments as part of the UN Human Rights Council.
Watch and share this video of Human Rights Watch Australia Director, Elaine Pearson, as she shares her concerns about Vietnam’s current actions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_11lF-eXn0&feature=youtu.be
Thank Reps Sanchez and Connolly for their support of human rights in Vietnam, and ask for their continued actions for change: @LorettaSanchez and @GerryConnolly.
Sign Reporters Without Border’s petition to free Vietnam’s imprisoned bloggers. Sign here!
Donate here: Give bloggers and activists the tools they need to succeed and keep safe in Vietnam’s harsh environment.
Tell someone: Share what you’ve learned about Vietnam today.
To read more about the stories from their original sources, follow the links within the text (underlined).
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