Vietnam: President’s Visit To Washington Puts Rights In Spotlight, Says HRW
By Eurasia Review
July 22, 2013
Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown on free expression should be a top agenda item during Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang’s summit with President Barack Obama this week, Human Rights Watch said today. Sang will be in the United States from July 24 to 26 and Obama will host him at the White House on Thursday, July 25, 2013.
Vietnam’s previous president Nguyen Minh Triet visited Washington in June 2007, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited in June 2008. Since those visits, a growing number of dissidents, bloggers, and religious leaders have been jailed in Vietnam. Convictions in the first half of 2013 have overtook the total of those convicted in 2012, which in turn exceeds the number in 2011 and 2010.
Under Vietnam’s harsh penal code, authorities routinely arrest dissidents for crimes such as “conducting propaganda,” “subversion of the people’s administration,” “disrupting the unity of the state,” or “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State or [its] citizens.” Vietnamese dissidents are often held incommunicado for lengthy periods, without access to counsel or family visits, often subjected to torture or other mistreatment, and prosecuted in politically controlled courts, which are increasingly handing out lengthy sentences.
“If criticizing the Vietnamese government is a crime, President Obama should show solidarity with dissidents by committing the crime himself,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director. “President Sang cannot publicly justify his government’s crackdown and should use this occasion to repudiate it.”
Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration to speak publicly about particular dissident cases, such as convicted dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, blogger Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), and lawyer Le Quoc Quan, who is awaiting trial on spurious “tax evasion” charges.
Obama has previously mentioned Nguyen Van Hai in a statement on World Press Freedom Day in May 2012, praising his courage amid a “mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam.” Several US senators, including John McCain, have denounced the arrest of Le Quoc Quan, a persistent government critic who has been repeatedly arrested by the Vietnamese government.
Obama should also raise concerns about the case of imprisoned religious leader Father Nguyen Van Ly, and the growing trend of arrests and persecution of bloggersand young dissidents, like Nguyen Phuong Uyen, Dinh Nguyen Kha, Dinh Nhat Uy, Nguyen Hoang Vi, and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (a.k.a. Mother Mushroom), who were variously targeted for distributing leaflets critical of the government, holding “human rights picnics,” attending protests, or handing out pamphlets or copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch urged the United States to suspend its defense and trade negotiations with Vietnam until the government ends its crackdown and pledges to repeal legal provisions criminalizing dissent.
“Governments that persecute citizens for holding picnics and handing out pamphlets should not be rewarded with better ties and preferential trade agreements,” Sifton said. “Obama should use this occasion to call this behavior what it is: authoritarianism.”