Human Rights Organizations Urge President Biden To Raise Human Rights Issues With Vietnamese Authorities
August 31, 2023
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden,
Ahead of your first visit to Vietnam as President of the United States, we, the undersigned human rights organizations, wish you every success.
The Asia-Pacific region plays a vital role in the U.S. Security Strategy, and the upgrading of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Vietnam is part of this strategy. However, we would like you to be informed about Vietnam’s worsening human rights situation:
Suppression of dissidents: In recent years, Vietnamese authorities have increased their repression and imprisonment of dissidents. Hundreds of peaceful democracy and human rights activists have been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms for vague charges such as “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “conducting propaganda against the state,” or “abusing democratic freedoms” simply because they have exercised fundamental human rights enshrined in the International Law on Human Rights, which Vietnam has ratified and committed to upholding.
Many well-known human rights activists such as Pham Doan Trang, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc are serving long prison sentences of up to 16 years. In addition, many ordinary people were put behind bars for years just for expressing their political views on social networks.
All prisoners of conscience have been arbitrarily detained for fabricated charges under the National Security section of the Penal Code and tried by an unjust justice system. During their detention, prisoners of conscience are treated inhumanely: in solitary confinement, tortured, deprived of clean water, safe food, and minimal medical care. Many prisoners of conscience have died in prison simply because of physical and mental abuse and without timely treatment.
Repression, control, and violation of the right to freedom of religion: Vietnam continues to outlaw large and orthodox religious organizations that are not under the control of the Communist Party, such as the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, the Orthodox Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, the Traditionalist Cao Dai Church, and predominantly ethnic minorities Christian groups. Vietnamese authorities continue repressing churches by criminalizing religious activities, preventing gatherings for religious activities, obstructing the freedom of movement of pastoral peoples, infringing on religious organizations’ properties, and forcing renunciation of religious belief.
Suppression of environmental activists: The Vietnamese government claims to protect the environment and has received billions of U.S. dollars of foreign aid for environmental improvements and pollution prevention; however, many eminent ecological activists, such as former Goldenman Prize laureate Nguy Thi Khanh, Dang Dinh Bach, Hoang Thi Minh Hong, Mai Phan Loi, and Bach Hong Duong, were arrested on fabricated charges of “tax evasion” and sentenced to several years in prison.
We believe that a Vietnam that respects human rights and develops sustainably will bring long-term benefits to the United States and world peace.
Therefore, we respectfully suggest that you set conditions for improving human rights in relations with Vietnam: The United States will only provide economic, military, and scientific and technological assistance to Vietnam when Hanoi commits to respecting the fundamental rights of its people.
During meetings with the Vietnamese authorities, you should encourage and persuade the Vietnamese government to take steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, pressuring them to stop repressing dissidents and activists, free all prisoners of conscience, and abolish all forms of restriction on the freedom to practice religion and cease to interfere in the internal affairs of religions.
With confidence in the Biden-Harris administration’s diplomacy that is “rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity,” we expect your visit to Vietnam to benefit ordinary Vietnamese people and activists in building freedom and democracy in Vietnam.
We sincerely wish you, Mr. President, a safe and successful visit to Vietnam.
- Tung Ba Nguyen, DPA
Executive Director of the Vietnam Human Rights Network
- Nam Tuan Nguyen
Executive Director of Defend the Defenders
- JB Vinh Huu Nguyen
Deputy President of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam
- Anh Tran Pham
President of the Vietnam Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association