Cao Disappointed Over Obama’s Decision to Strenghten Ties with Hanoi

July 23, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) expressed his “profound disappointment” over the Obama Administration’s decision to strengthen bilateral relations with Vietnam’s communist government.

Cao, the first and only Vietnamese-American ever to serve in the United States Congress, described Hanoi’s record on human rights and religious freedom “atrocious.” He said the the Vietnamese government does not deserve better U.S. ties until it demonstrates greater respect for the freedom and dignity of its own people.

Cao cited numerous examples of human rights abuses committed by the Vietnamese government, including the harrassment, arrest and false imprisonment of pro-democracy advocates and clerics, the seizing of religious institutions and destruction of religious symbols, and the use of eminent domain to strip property owners of their holdings without just compensation.

The Congressman said, “These outrageous abuses should be universally condemned.”

Clinton, in Vietnam to attend an economic meeting of Southeast Asian nations and commemorate the 15th anniverary of normalization between the U.S.-Vietnamese relations, said she would be in Hanoi again this October for the East Asia Summit and to prepare for US President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam next year.

But Cao said Vietnam’s progress on the issue of human rights has actually declined since around the time of Vietnam’s admission to the World Trade Organization in 2007. “Rather than building stronger ties,” Cao said, “the Administration should be holding Hanoi’s feet to the fire on its human rights record.”

Cao called for Vietnam to be placed on the U.S. State Department’s “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) list of nations known or ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom; its “Tier 3″ list of countries whose governments do not fully comply with minimum standards for combating trafficking in persons for purposes of prostitution and labor; and that the U.S. Senate pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2009, which would prohibit U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to the Vietnamese government unless the President certifies to Congress that Vietnam has made substantial progress respecting political, media and religious freedoms, minority rights access to U.S. refugee programs and actions to end trafficking in persons.

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