(VOVworld) – The US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a so-called “Vietnam Human Rights Act 1897″. The Act calls on the US government to link human rights conditions with non-humanitarian assistance and take a more conservative attitude towards Vietnam on issues related to human rights and religious freedom. The Act has angered the public in the world and Vietnam.
The Vietnam Human Rights Act 1897 was initiated by two Republican Congressmen Ed Royce and Chris Smith who believe that the Act will help improve human rights in Vietnam, prodding Vietnam to respect freedom of religion, speech and democracy. They have said Vietnam is seriously violating human rights and that Vietnam continues to be among the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. However, these Congressmen have never been to Vietnam. To get information to draft HR 1897, they held a number of hearings with Vietnamese witnesses, many of whom violated Vietnam law and then accused Vietnam of being among the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. The Vietnamese people have a story about “blind fortune tellers describing an elephant”, which could be right for this case. Using individual examples, these US Congressmen made accusations concerning freedom of religion and human rights in Vietnam. In effect they made up a false and biased story about the human rights reality in Vietnam. These Congressmen are like blind fortune tellers who see part of the elephant but describe it as if they can see it all. The information in the Vietnam Human Rights Act 1897 is incomplete, inaccurate and distorted.
When judging human rights in Vietnam, Ed Royce and Chris Smith, who have biased views on this issue, seem to have deliberately forgotten Vietnam’s considerable achievements in promoting human rights in civil, political, economic, cultural and social aspects, which have been internationally recognized. Judging freedom of religion in Vietnam, Smith ignored that in 2006 the US State Department removed Vietnam from the list of countries of particular concerns with regard to religious freedom. The State Department’s latest report on religious freedom did not propose to put Vietnam back on the list. Smith stated that Vietnam controls religious groups, and limits and sanctions all independent religious activities but he does not mention that Vietnam now has nearly 20 million religious followers, 56,000 religious dignitaries and tens of thousands of non-professional religious activists. There are more than 14,000 Buddhist pagodas, 6,000 Catholic churches and chapels, 500 Protestant churches, 1,284 Cao Dai temples, 522 Hoa Hao Buddhist Pagodas and 77 Muslim mosques. These figures reflect the reality of religious freedom in Vietnam much better than the information introduced by Smith.
The public is discontented that the Vietnam Human Rights Act 1897 calls on the US government to link human rights conditions with non-humanitarian assistance and include human rights conditions in the negotiations on Vietnam’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In a press release, Eni Faleomavaega, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Asia and the Pacific, criticized the House Foreign Affairs Committee for passing a Human Rights Act that he says does not reflect the full truth of the situation in Vietnam. He said the act’s approval was affected by a number of Vietnamese Americans who do not have goodwill towards Vietnam.
Congressman Faleomavaega, who is also a Vietnam War veteran said that attempting to overthrow the government and providing false information on human right situation in Vietnam is not the right thing to do. According to the congressman, it is time to break with the past and begin a new period of healing war wounds.
Vietnamese and US leaders are making every effort to boost bilateral ties and enhance understanding between the two countries. They are holding regular and effective dialogues on human rights. The two countries have strengthened cooperation in humanitarian activities, supporting Vietnamese Agent Orange/Dioxin victims and searching for Americans missing in action in Vietnam. The US House of Representative’s Foreign Affairs Committee’s approval of the Vietnam Human Rights Act 1897 runs counter to the fine development of the Vietnamese- US relationship.