Cao Hears Testimony on Human Rights Abuses in Vietnam
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Less than four weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton pledged stronger U.S. ties with Hanoi, a Congressional human rights commission today heard testimony from Vietnamese-Americans on how relatives in their native country have been tortured and killed at the hands of the Vietnamese government.
Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02), the nation’s first and only Vietnamese-American Congressman, called the hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of police attacks earlier this year on Catholic men and women in C?n D?u, a village located in east central Vietnam, after they resisted a plan by local authorities to uproot their 135-year-old parish, as well as its cemetery, to build a tourist resort.
In his opening statement, Cao explained that in May, violence broke out at a funeral procession for a member of the parish. “The police seized the casket,” he said, “and cremated the body of the deceased against her last wish.”
Cao said that “many members of the funeral procession were beaten and arrested, and now some are facing trial. Others have fled the country and are seeking asylum.” He said that Nguy?n N?m, a member of the funeral procession, “was interrogated numerous times and died after a severe beating.”
Nguy?n N?m’s brother, Nguy?n Tai of Houston, Texas, described his brother’s death in riveting detail while holding up a photo of the mauled body for the three Commission members in attendance: Cao, Congressman Christopher Smith (NJ-04) and Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10). Wolf is Co-Chairman of the Commission. Both Cao and Smith sit on the Executive Committee.
Wolf ordered the body photo and other documents sent to Secretary of State Clinton for her review. During a July visit to Hanoi to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of U.S.-Vietnamese diplomatic relations, Clinton said the Administration is ready to take ties between the two countries to the “next level.”
Cao is among Congressmen now calling for a U.N. investigation of the alleged abuses in C?n D?u. He is also calling for Vietnam to be placed on the U.S. State Department’s “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) list of nations known for 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 Congress 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.