TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF UKRAINE: DEFENDING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHARTER OF THE UN
The Alliance for Vietnam's Democracy,
Recalling the obligation of all States under Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered,
Reaffirming the principle of customary international law, as restated in its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970, entitled “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”, that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal,
Recalling its resolutions 68/262 of 27 March 2014, entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, ES-11/1 of 2 March 2022, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine”, and ES-11/2 of 24 March 2022, entitled “Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine”,
Noting that the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine are areas that, in part, are or have been under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation, as a result of aggression, in violation of the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,
Noting also that the decisions of 21 February and 29 September 2022 by the Russian Federation related to the status of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine are a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter,
Noting with concern that the illegal so-called referendums were organized from 23 to 27 September 2022 in these regions as attempts to modify the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine,
Noting the Secretary-General’s statement of 29 September 2022 in which he recalled that any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the Charter and international law,
1. Reaffirm our commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters;
2. Condemn the organization by the Russian Federation of illegal so-called referendums in regions within the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the attempted illegal annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, following the organization of the above-mentioned referendums;
3. Declare that the unlawful actions of the Russian Federation with regard to the illegal so-called referendums held from 23 to 27 September 2022 in parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine that, in part, are or have been under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation, and the subsequent attempted illegal annexation of these regions, have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine;
4. Call upon all States, international organizations and United Nations specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration by the Russian Federation of the status of any or all of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk or Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status;
5. Demand that the Russian Federation immediately and unconditionally reverse its decisions of 21 February and 29 September 2022 related to the status of certain areas of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, as they are a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders;
6. Welcome the efforts of the United Nations, Member States and humanitarian organizations to respond to the humanitarian and refugee crisis;
7. Welcome and express our strong support for the continued efforts by the Secretary-General and Member States, and calls upon Member States and international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international and regional organizations, to support the de-escalation of the current situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means, with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and in accordance with the principles of the Charter;
8. Announce our intention to remedy the wrongful abstention by Vietnam’s authorities on the matters of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and principles of the UN Charter regarding the territorial integrity of any State.
DECLARATION ON FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS FOR VIETNAM
The Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy,
Reaffirming the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which establish that the authority to govern shall be based on the will of the people as expressed in periodic and genuine elections;
Acknowledging and endorsing the fundamental principles relating to periodic free and fair elections that have been recognized by States in universal and regional human rights instruments, including the right of everyone to take part in the government of his or her country directly or indirectly through freely chosen representatives, to vote in such elections by secret ballot, to have an equal opportunity to become a candidate for election, and to put forward his or her political views, individually or in association with others;
Conscious of the fact that Vietnam has the sovereign right, in accordance with the will of our people, freely to choose and develop our own political, social, economic and cultural systems without interference by other States in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter;
Confirming the universal and our people’s will to promote the establishment of democratic, pluralist, muti-partied systems of representative government without communism or other forms of authoritarianism;
Agreeing that all political parties which participate in Vietnam’s political process need to maintain internal transparency and democratic practices; and none has the constitutional or legal rights above others or the law;
Recognizing that the establishment and strengthening of democratic processes and institutions is the common responsibility of governments, the electorate and organized political forces, that periodic and genuine elections are a necessary and indispensable element of sustained efforts to protect the rights and interests of the governed and that, as a matter of practical experience, the right of everyone to take part in the government of his or her country is a crucial factor in the effective enjoyment by all of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Welcoming the expanding role of the United Nations, regional organizations and parliamentary assemblies, and international and national non-governmental organizations in providing electoral assistance;
Therefore adopts the following Declaration on Free and Fair Elections, and urges all people, political parties and Vietnam’s authorities to be guided by the principles and standards set out therein, and to respect the outcomes thereof:
1. Free and Fair Elections
The authority of the government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in genuine, free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage.
2. Voting and Elections Rights
(1) Every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections, on a non-discriminatory basis.
(2) Every adult citizen has the right to access to an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters.
(3) No eligible citizen shall be denied the right to vote or disqualified from registration as a voter, otherwise than in accordance with objectively verifiable criteria prescribed by law, and provided that such measures are consistent with the Vietnam's obligations under international law.
(4) Every individual who is denied the right to vote or to be registered as a voter shall be entitled to appeal to a jurisdiction competent to review such decisions and to correct errors promptly and effectively.
(5) Every voter has the right to equal and effective access to a polling station in order to exercise his or her right to vote.
(6) Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded equivalent weight to that of others.
(7) The right to vote in secret is absolute and shall not be restricted in any manner whatsoever.
3. Candidature, Party and Campaign Rights and Responsibilities
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country and shall have an equal opportunity to become a candidate for election. The criteria for participation in government shall be determined in accordance with national constitutions and laws and shall not be inconsistent with the Vietnam's international obligations.
(2) Everyone has the right to join, or together with others to establish, a political party or organization for the purpose of competing in an election.
(3) Everyone individually and together with others has the right:
To express political opinions without interference;
To seek, receive and impart information and to make an informed choice;
To move freely within the country in order to campaign for election;
To campaign on an equal basis with other political parties, including the party forming the existing government.
(4) Every candidate for election and every political party shall have an equal opportunity of access to the media, particularly the mass communications media, in order to put forward their political views.
(5) The right of candidates to security with respect to their lives and property shall be recognized and protected.
(6) Every individual and every political party have the right to the protection of the law and to a remedy for violation of political and electoral rights.
(7) The above rights may only be subject to such restrictions of an exceptional nature which are in accordance with law and reasonably necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and provided they are consistent with Vietnam's obligations under international law. Permissible restrictions on candidature, the creation and activity of political parties and campaign rights shall not be applied so as to violate the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
(8) Every individual or political party whose candidature, party or campaign rights are denied or restricted shall be entitled to appeal to a jurisdiction competent to review such decisions and to correct errors promptly and effectively.
(9) Candidature, party and campaign rights carry responsibilities to the community. In particular, no candidate or political party shall engage in violence.
(10) Every candidate and political party competing in an election shall respect the rights and freedoms of others.
(11) Every candidate and political party competing in an election shall accept the outcome of a free and fair election.
4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Vietnam Authorities
(1) Vietnam authorities should take the necessary legislative steps and other measures, in accordance with their constitutional processes, to guarantee the rights and institutional framework for periodic and genuine, free and fair elections, in accordance with their obligations under international law. In particular, Vietnam authorities should:
Establish an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters;
Establish clear criteria for the registration of voters, such as age, citizenship and residence, and ensure that such provisions are applied without distinction of any kind;
Provide for the formation and free functioning of political parties, possibly regulate the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns, ensure the separation of party and State, and establish the conditions for competition in legislative elections on an equitable basis;
Initiate or facilitate national programs of civic education, to ensure that the population are familiar with election procedures and issues;
(2) In addition, Vietnam authorities should take the necessary policy and institutional steps to ensure the progressive achievement and consolidation of democratic goals, including through the establishment of a neutral, impartial or balanced mechanism for the management of elections. In so doing, they should, among other matters:
Ensure that those responsible for the various aspects of the election are trained and act impartially, and that coherent voting procedures are established and made known to the voting public;
Ensure the registration of voters, updating of electoral rolls and balloting procedures, with the assistance of national and international observers as appropriate;
Encourage parties, candidates and the media to accept and adopt a Code of Conduct to govern the election campaign and the polling period;
Ensure the integrity of the ballot through appropriate measures to prevent multiple voting or voting by those not entitled thereto;
Ensure the integrity of the process for counting votes.
(3) Vietnam authorities shall respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction. In time of elections, the Vietnam authorities and its organs should therefore ensure:
That freedom of movement, assembly, association and expression are respected, particularly in the context of political rallies and meetings;
That parties and candidates are free to communicate their views to the electorate, and that they enjoy equality of access to State and public-service media;
That the necessary steps are taken to guarantee non-partisan coverage in State and public-service media.
(4) In order that elections shall be fair, Vietnam authorities should take the necessary measures to ensure that parties and candidates enjoy reasonable opportunities to present their electoral platform.
(5) Vietnam authorities should take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that the principle of the secret ballot is respected, and that voters are able to cast their ballots freely, without fear or intimidation.
(6) Furthermore, Vietnam authorities should ensure that the ballot is conducted so as to avoid fraud or other illegality, that the security and the integrity of the process is maintained, and that ballot counting is undertaken by trained personnel, subject to monitoring and/or impartial verification.
(7) Vietnams should take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure the transparency of the entire electoral process including, for example, through the presence of party agents and duly accredited observers.
(8) Vietnam authorities should take the necessary measures to ensure that parties, candidates and supporters enjoy equal security, and that Vietnam authorities take the necessary steps to prevent electoral violence.
(9) Vietnam authorities should ensure that violations of human rights and complaints relating to the electoral process are determined promptly within the timeframe of the electoral process and effectively by an independent and impartial authority, such as an electoral commission or the courts.
USG CONSULTATION ON SUPPORTING FREE AND INDEPENDENT MEDIA
Supporting Free and Independent Media
Vietnam is formulating new rules requiring social media firms to take down content it deems “illegal” within 24 hours. The 24-hour time frame to take down “illegal content and services” will not have a grace period, while active “illegal livestreams” must be blocked within three hours. Companies that do not meet the deadlines could see their platforms banned in the country.
The approach would put the burden on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Zalo to purge content unwanted by the authorities. Facebook and Google have shown compliance with the Vietnamese authorities in censoring criticism and repressing dissent. Social media platform has restricted content in Vietnam has gone up by 983% according to Facebook's own Transparency Report. Similarly, Google regularly removed thousands of YouTube videos that criticized the Vietnamese Communist Party and the authorities.
According to Amnesty International, out of 170 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, 69 were in jail "solely for their society media activity." Vietnam already has one of the world’s most restrictive internet governance regimes and was given an “internet freedom score” of 22 out of 100 by the pro-democracy nonprofit Freedom House. That makes its internet freedom worse than that of Russia (30/100) and Saudi Arabia (24/100).
In countering authoritarianism, the battle for media freedom is where our adversaries are investing a lot of resources, human, technological, and financial. Our commitment must go the protection of free and independent media, particularly social media and specifically political speech. Our organizations are supporting the use of VPN by buying individual accounts for people in Vietnam. Though it’s not 100% effective, VPN can hide users’ IP addresses and reduce the censorship.
Supporting free and independent media means holding social media companies accountable. We would like to see commitments from social media companies toward supporting and protecting independent journalists.
USG CONSULTATION ON FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS AND POLITICAL PROCESSES
Thank you for organizing this and other events. Speaking on free and fair elections, it’s probably redundant to say that Vietnam, under a communist dictatorship, does not have free and fair elections. Vietnam is among the few countries to not hold any direct elections at the national level. The competitive nature of the elections is highly constrained by the Communist Party's monopoly on power in Vietnam, limitations on free speech, and government interference with the elections.
The President of Vietnam is selected by the National Assembly, thus an indirect system. The Prime Minister of Vietnam and Chief Justice of Vietnam are appointed by the President and approved by the National Assembly. The Ministers are then appointed by the Prime Minister and approved by the National Assembly. Generally, 90% of seats of the National Assembly are directly reserved for the Vietnamese Communist Party, with the remaining 10% reserved for non-party members approved by the so-called Vietnamese Fatherland Front. This Front is, in turn, composed entirely of members from the Vietnamese Communist Party.
By any measure, elections in Vietnam should be considered shams. They violate most of the criteria of free and fair elections by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which Vietnam is a member. If elections are shams, it’s logical to conclude that those who are fraudulently elected should not be recognized as legitimate representatives of the Vietnamese people. As the leadership of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has gone largely unchallenged in its pursuits of human rights abuses across five decades, recognizing the Vietnamese heads of state as President or Prime Minister, outside of diplomatic circle, grants the incorrect assumption that the people of Vietnam, via democratic means, have readily legitimized the leaders who rules them.
As we accept that countering authoritarianism is a goal of the Summit, it’s important to ally with the democratic activists and organizations from inside those authoritarian countries, who have the most at stake. For them, as well as for us, words matter! We don’t want to project an image of openness and representative leadership of a regime that we are countering. A de facto recognition of totalitarian Vietnamese regime should not equate with a de jure recognition of that system of governance.
We want to take this opportunity to reaffirm that the authority to govern shall be based on the will of the people as expressed in genuine elections. Also, we confirm the universal and our people’s will to promote the establishment of democratic, pluralist, muti-partied systems of representative government without communism or other forms of authoritarianism.
USG CONSULTATION ON BOLSTERING DEMOCRATIC REFORMERS AND PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS
Bolstering democratic reformers and protecting human rights
Thank you for organizing today’s consultation. I would like to add to the conversations that human rights cannot co-exist with totalitarian systems. We have seen this repeatedly illustrated in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran and Vietnam. Human rights can only be protected in a country where its government recognizes the rights of the people to participate in the political process. Without political self-determination, there is no reliable method to protect the people from the ruling authorities. Of course, with political self-determination, there is no longer totalitarianism.
That is not to say that, sometimes, interventions and compromises cannot be made to better the lives of some groups or individuals, especially with the external pressure of the USG. However, our options are often limited. We are faced with either striking a deal to expatriate an individual from harm or maintaining diplomatic communication to minimize the abuses of democratic reformers and human rights defenders. Both options are resources intensive and possibly even detrimental as they remove and/or isolate these individuals and render them no longer effective as leaders of their country’s struggle for democracy and human rights.
Despite lacking the rights of media expression and ranked as one of the bottom countries for media and internet freedom, Vietnam has about 65 million Facebook accounts and 60 million YouTube users. Political speech is, however, not allowed and strictly monitored by the authorities and their 10,000 strong army of paid online collaborators. For political speech to flourish and give strong impetus for democracy in Vietnam, NGOs need to circumvent this censorship and monitoring
Technology has allowed for this circumvention. Virtual Private Network or VPN is a cheap but effective technology which hides the users’ internet address, prevents the authorities from censoring and protects the identity of the political activists and human rights defenders. VPN allows internet anonymity when internet is available. When internet is shut down, low orbit satellite internet providers such as StarLink or OneWeb can continue to provide communications. Investment in VPN and open internet are cost-effective ways to bolster democratic activists and protect human rights defenders. As the war in Ukraine illustrates, the cost of wars to confront authoritarianism is a lot more expensive.
Bolstering democratic activists requires that we concentrate on freedom of political speech and technological tools to protect such speech. It would allow us to shift our emphasis to the front end where we can preventively protect the activists and their work product, i.e., their political expression. It would empower people to exercise their freedom of speech. We could provide a panel or a side event on this during the Summit if it would help.
Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy
Ủng hộ những người cải cách dân chủ và bảo vệ nhân quyền
Nhân quyền không thể cùng tồn tại trong các chính thể độc tài. Chúng ta đã nhiều lần thấy điều này được minh chứng ở Hồng Kông, Tân Cương, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran và Việt Nam. Quyền con người chỉ có thể được bảo vệ trong một quốc gia mà chính phủ của quốc gia đó công nhận quyền của người dân được tham gia vào quá trình chính trị. Không có quyền tự quyết về chính trị thì không có phương pháp đáng tin cậy nào để bảo vệ người dân từ các nhà cầm quyền. Có quyền tự quyết về chính trị thì không còn thể chế độc tài toàn trị.
Điều đó không có nghĩa là, đôi khi, các can thiệp và thỏa hiệp không cải thiện cuộc sống của một số nhóm hoặc một số cá nhân, đặc biệt là trước áp lực bên ngoài của Mỹ. Các chọn lựa thường bị hạn chế. Chúng ta phải chấp nhận với việc thỏa thuận đem một cá nhân ra khỏi nước hoặc duy trì liên lạc ngoại giao để giảm thiểu sự hành hạ những người cải cách dân chủ và những người bảo vệ nhân quyền. Cả hai lựa chọn đều tốn nhiều nguồn lực và thậm chí có thể gây bất lợi khi chúng loại bỏ và / hoặc cô lập những cá nhân này và khiến họ không còn hiệu quả với tư cách là những người lãnh đạo cuộc đấu tranh cho dân chủ và nhân quyền của đất nước họ.
Mặc dù thiếu quyền thể hiện trên các phương tiện truyền thông và được Freedom House xếp hạng là một trong năm quốc gia kém nhất về tự do internet, Việt Nam có khoảng 65 triệu tài khoản Facebook và 60 triệu người dùng YouTube. Tuy nhiên, sự phát biểu chính kiến vẫn bị cấm và bị giám sát nghiêm ngặt bởi nhà cầm quyền và đội quân 10.000 dư luận viên hùng hậu của họ. Để sự phát biểu chính kiến sẽ phát triển rộng rãi ở Việt Nam và tạo động lực mạnh mẽ cho dân chủ ở Việt Nam, các tổ chức phi chính phủ cần vượt qua những kiểm duyệt và giám sát này.
Kỹ thuật đã cho phép việc này. VPN là một công nghệ rẻ nhưng hiệu quả, ẩn địa chỉ internet của người dùng, ngăn các cơ quan chức năng kiểm duyệt và bảo vệ danh tính của các nhà hoạt động chính trị và nhân quyền. VPN cho phép ẩn danh trên internet khi có internet. Khi internet bị ngắt, các nhà cung cấp internet vệ tinh quỹ đạo thấp như StarLink hoặc OneWeb là cần thiết để cung cấp thông tin liên lạc. Đầu tư vào VPN và internet mở là những cách hiệu quả về chi phí để hỗ trợ các nhà hoạt động dân chủ và bảo vệ những người bảo vệ nhân quyền. Như cuộc chiến ở Ukraine đã minh họa, cái giá phải trả của những cuộc chiến để đối đầu với chủ nghĩa độc tài đắt hơn rất nhiều.
Muốn ủng hộ các nhà hoạt động dân chủ, chúng ta phải tập trung vào quyền tự do ngôn luận chính trị và các công cụ kỹ thuật để bảo vệ nó. Chúng ta có thể chuyển trọng tâm sang phía trước, nơi chúng ta có thể bảo vệ các nhà hoạt động và sản phẩm công việc của họ là các phát ngôn chính trị. Mọi người sẽ được thực hiện quyền tự do ngôn luận của mình. Chúng tôi có thể cung cấp một cuộc hội thảo bên lề về vấn đề này trong Hội nghị Thượng Đỉnh nếu muốn.
LETTER TO CONGRESS RE. THE TAIWAN POLICY ACT OF 2022
August 8, 2022
According to AP, China is extending its military exercises surrounding Taiwan which have disrupted shipping and air traffic in that region. This, in effect, provides a blockage of Taiwan, threatens our allies, and interferes with our freedom of navigation.
We, the undersigned, believes that this presents a clear and present danger which needs urgent Congressional actions to protect our national interest. The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 is such an action. It promotes the security of Taiwan, ensures regional stability, and deters People’s Republic of China (PRC) aggression against Taiwan. It also threatens severe sanctions against the PRC for hostile action against Taiwan.
We write to support the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, currently in the Senate, as well as other legislations which aim to support democracies in Asia. Thank you for your consideration.
STATEMENT TO FACEBOOK OVERSIGHTBOARD
In Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party retains tight control of media and tolerates little dissent. Vietnam ranks 175th of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. In April 2020, according to Reuters, Facebook confirmed it had reluctantly complied with the Vietnamese authorities’ request to “restrict access to content which it has deemed to be illegal”. Of course, “illegal” is defined by the authorities as anything mildly critical of the authorities. Many of Facebook’s Vietnamese accounts are from US so the access restriction has the effect of extending the limit of freedom of expression to US citizens.
According to Amnesty International, out of 170 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, 69 were in jail "solely for their society media activity". Social media platform has restricted content in Vietnam has gone up by 983%, from 77 in the second half of 2019 to 834 in the first half of 2020, according to Facebook's Transparency Report.
Last October the Washington Post reported that Facebook co-founder and Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally signed a commitment with the Vietnamese authorities to limit posts on the social network that are considered "anti-state,” because he didn’t want to be shut out of one of the most important social media markets in Asia.
According to VietNamNet's ictnews, an official website by the authorities, on March 29, 2022, that foreign social networking platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok removed thousands of posts with content that slandered the Vietnamese Party and State in the first three months of this year. The figures, supplied by Vietnamese authorities, showed that the social media companies took down all but 10% of the posts objected to by the authorities.
The allegations we receive from our activists inside Vietnam are that Facebook has aided the Vietnamese authorities in censoring criticism and repressing dissent, going as far as giving account information to the authorities. We have several testimonies that when the people are summoned by the authorities for questions regarding their social media activity, the authorities already have access to their Facebook account, including username and password.
Our own Facebook account has 210,000 subscribers and has seen many shutdowns over the years. Our posts have seen significantly declined viewership, despites an increase in subscription, which we suspect that Facebook is altering its algorithm to screen out posts that promotes religious freedom and human rights.
We believe that this complicity has a secondary effect of self-censorship by the users of Facebook to avoid harassment and arrests. This set a very troubling precedent for restriction of freedom of speech that can be used by other oppressive authorities. However, we look forward to working with the Oversight Board and Facebook to help change this in the future.
VIETNAM AND THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
“The police told me I cannot leave my house,” Hua Phi reported. At 72 years old, the sub-dignitary of Caodai, a major religion in Vietnam, has been a seasoned activist for religious freedom and democracy. His latest encounters with Vietnamese authorities came after him being invited to the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC in the last week of June 2022.
The religious leader gently read an invitation signed by Katrina Lantos Sweet, former Chair of US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and Sam Brownback, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Hua Phi has, however, not been allowed to travel by the communist authorities. His passport has long been confiscated. But the invitation did bring him many uninvited guests.
On June 6, 2022, four security officials, one captain, two lieutenant colonels and one colonel, first came to Hua Phi’s house to announce that he will not be attending the Summit. Two weeks later, on June 20, one colonel and one senior colonel took turn the entire day to interrogate him. They wanted to know how much money he was being offered to attend and what he intended to say at the international conference.
The police also wanted Hua Phi to recant a statement on March 21 by the Interfaith Council of Vietnam, of which he was a co-chair. They were not happy with how the statement declared Russia’s war in Ukraine “an unprovoked humanity’s atrocity” and demanded that “President Putin should immediately end this war, do not worsen this disaster” and “find reasonable methods to bring about peace.” They were even more displeased with a request that “China must end its complicity with Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.”
That led to the third encounter right before the Summit with the above order of “no exit.” In 2019, Phi was similarly barred from attending meetings related to an annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue at the invitation of the US Department of State. “The police brought heavy furniture such as beds, chairs, and tables to block the door to my house,” Phi told Radio Free Asia of the extraordinary effort then to prevent him from leaving.
Since 2013, the police have summoned Phi many times with reasons such as “offending the motherland”, “providing fake news” and most recently for his involvement with a democracy alliance. Harassment, house arrests and multiple summons are some of the extrajudicial tactics routinely employed by the Vietnamese government as they leave less trace of abuse. Then came the attack prior to Phi’s scheduled meeting with the Australian Ambassador on June 25, 2018.
At 7:00 PM on that day, when his family was having dinner, dozens of police broke into Hua Phi’s house, covered his head, and beat him till he fell unconscious. Before leaving, they cut his beard and prohibited his family members from leaving their residence. Phi sustained severe spinal injury and needed surgery. He was also urinating blood from injuries to his kidneys. Later that year, the police came back to destroy his vegetable garden and set fire to his farm equipment, not out of anger but with intent to cripple him economically.
Human rights and religious freedom activists in Vietnam routinely face similar oppression from the authorities. The independent Hoa Hao Buddhist Church’s religious ceremonies have been severely restricted by the government. Hua Phi's fellow leaders of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam, such as Father Nguyen Van Ly and Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, spent decades in prison on trumped-up charges of “crimes against national unity.” Tanh’s Buddhist temple was razed to the ground by the authorities in 2016. The 88 Project lists 208 activists in prison and 340 others at risk on its database for Vietnam. USCIRF reported 61 Vietnamese religious prisoners “not released” and one “died in custody” on its 2022 Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List. Meanwhile, the International Federation for Human Rights claimed that Vietnam has the highest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia. Per capita, Vietnam hold four times as many political prisoners as China. Of course, not being in prison is not the same as being free, as Hua Phi and many others would attest.
In February of 2021, Vietnam announced its bid as an ASEAN candidate to join the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the body’s 2023-2025 term. On June 26, 2022, Vuong Dinh Hue, Chairman of the so-called National Assembly, paid an official visit to the EU to mobilize European countries’ support for such candidacy. If elected, this would be the second term on the UNHRC for Vietnam. At the last election in 2013, Vietnam received the most votes from UN members, 184 out of 192 countries, with several from the EU member states. Apparently, Hue wanted to again count on their support.
Despite being an autocratic regime, under which free elections and many basic freedoms are denied, Vietnam seems to have enough support to be back on the UNHRC. Feeling confident of its chance, Vietnam has even publicly voiced its intention to run for chairmanship of the Council. As the UN human rights watchdog that is “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe,” the UNHRC is purportedly one of the first lines of defense for Hua Phi and his fellow activists. Soon, however, the fox will be guarding the hen house.
There is also an undesirable situation of Vietnam’s support for Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and Vietnam’s vote against a resolution to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, despite evidence of Russian atrocities. In a recent meeting with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, his Vietnamese counterpart announced something similar to the “no limits partnership” between Russia and China, that “Russia will always be our most important partner and the main priority in Vietnam’s policy.” It is unlikely that, once getting a seat on the UNHRC, Vietnam will vote any differently on the war crimes of its “most important partner.”
The latest statement regarding Vietnam by the Special Rapporteurs in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights read, “Using such laws [from Vietnamese Criminal Code] to detain, prosecute and harshly punish human rights defenders and civil society members, who are working for a freer and more just society, is an attempt not only to silence these individuals and organizations but also to impose a climate of fear leading to self-censorship and inhibiting others from speaking out and cooperating with the United Nations human rights and other mechanisms." For now, Hua Phi and his compatriots will have to take comfort in such statements, knowingly that the Vietnamese authorities will use its potential position on the UNHRC to legitimize and escalate further their human rights abuses.
“Công an cấm không cho tôi đi ra khỏi nơi cư trú,” Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi cho biết. Năm nay 72 tuổi, vị Chánh Trị Sự đạo Cao Đài, một trong những tôn giáo chính ở Việt Nam, là một nhà hoạt động lâu năm cho dân chủ và tự do tôn giáo. Những cuộc “làm việc” mới nhất của ông với các nhà cầm quyền Việt Nam diễn ra sau khi ông được mời tham dự Hội Nghị Thượng Đỉnh Tự Do Tôn Giáo Quốc Tế tại Washington, DC vào tuần cuối của tháng 6 năm 2022.
Vị chức sắc đọc thư mời ký bởi Katrina Lantos Sweet, cựu Chủ Tịch Ủy Ban Tự Do Tôn Giáo Quốc Tế Hoa Kỳ (USCIRF), và Sam Brownback, Đại Sứ Tự Do Tôn Giáo Quốc Tế dưới thời Tổng thống Trump. Tuy nhiên, Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi vốn đã không được nhà cầm quyền cộng sản cho phép đi lại. Hộ chiếu của ông đã bị tịch thu từ lâu. Nhưng lời mời đã mang lại cho ông nhiều vị khách mà ông không muốn.
Lần đầu tiên là vào ngày 6 tháng 6 năm 2022, bốn sĩ quan công an, một đại úy, hai trung tá và một thượng tá, đến thông báo rằng ông Hứa Phi sẽ không được tham dự Hội Nghị Thượng Đỉnh Về Tự Do Tôn Giáo Quốc Tế 2022. Hai tuần sau, vào ngày 20 tháng 6, một thượng tá và một đại tá công an thay phiên khảo cung ông. Họ muốn biết ông được trả bao nhiêu tiền để tham dự và ông định nói gì tại hội nghị quốc tế này.
Họ nghi rằng ông sẽ lập lại bản tuyên ngôn hòa bình vào ngày 21 tháng 3 của Hội Đồng Liên Tộn Việt Nam mà ông là đồng chủ tịch. Công an không hài lòng với tuyên bố rằng cuộc chiến tranh của Nga ở Ukraine là “thảm họa cho nhân loại không ai muốn” và yêu cầu “Tổng thống Putin hãy lập tức chấm dứt cuộc chiến này, đừng leo thang thảm họa chiến tranh” và “tìm ra những phương pháp hợp lý để đem lại hòa bình”. Công an thậm chí còn bất bình hơn với yêu cầu "Trung Quốc phải chấm dứt đồng lõa với Nga trong cuộc xâm lăng Ukraine."
Rồi dẫn đến cuộc gặp gỡ thứ ba kể trên với lệnh "nội bất xuất". Năm 2019, tương tự như vậy ông cũng bị cấm tham dự các cuộc họp liên quan đến Đối Thoại Nhân Quyền Việt - Mỹ theo lời mời của Bộ Ngoại Giao Hoa Kỳ. “Công an đã mang đồ đạc nặng như giường, ghế và bàn để chặn cửa của tôi,” Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi nói với Đài Á Châu Tự Do về nỗ lực đặc biệt khi đó để ngăn ông rời khỏi nhà.
Từ năm 2013, công an đã triệu tập Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi nhiều lần với lý do như “xúc phạm Tổ quốc Dân tộc và cung cấp tin tức không đúng sự thật” và gần đây nhất là vì ông tham gia vào một liên minh dân chủ. Quấy rối, quản thúc tại gia và triệu tập liên tiếp là một số thủ đoạn ngoại pháp được nhà cầm quyền Việt Nam sử dụng thường xuyên vì chúng không để lại dấu vết vi phạm. Tiếp đến là cuộc tấn công trước dự kiến cuộc gặp của ông với Đại sứ Úc vào ngày 25 tháng 6 năm 2018.
Lúc 7h hôm đó, khi gia đình ông đang ăn tối thì hàng chục công an ập vào nhà, trùm đầu ông và đánh ông đến bất tỉnh. Trước khi rút lui, chúng cắt râu của ông và cấm người nhà của ông không được rời khỏi nơi cư trú. Ông bị chấn thương cột sống nặng và cần phải phẫu thuật. Ông cũng đi tiểu ra máu do chấn thương ở thận. Cuối năm đó, cảnh sát cũng phá hủy vườn rau của ông và phóng hỏa đốt thiết bị nông trại của ông, không phải vì tức giận mà vì dã tâm làm tê liệt kinh tế của ông.
Các nhà hoạt động nhân quyền và tự do tôn giáo ở Việt Nam thường xuyên phải đối diện với sự đàn áp như vậy từ phía nhà cầm quyền. Các nghi lễ của Phật giáo Hòa Hảo Thuần Túy vẫn bị nhà cầm quyền kiểm soát nghiêm ngặt. Các đồng chủ tịch khác của Hội Đồng Liên Tôn Việt Nam như Linh Mục Nguyễn Văn Lý và Hòa Thượng Thích Không Tánh đã phải ngồi tù hàng chục năm về tội “chống lại sự đoàn kết dân tộc”. Chùa Liên Trì của Hòa Thượng Không Tánh đã bị nhà cầm quyền ủi sập vào năm 2016. Dự án 88 liệt kê trên hồ sơ của họ 208 nhà hoạt động đang bị giam và 340 người khác đang bị nguy hiểm. USCIRF đã báo cáo 61 người Việt Nam “bị giam cầm” và một người “đã chết khi bị giam giữ” trong Danh sách Nạn nhân của Quyền Tự Do Tôn Giáo hoặc Tín Ngưỡng. Trong khi đó Liên Đoàn Quốc Tế Về Nhân Quyền tuyên bố rằng Việt Nam có số lượng tù nhân chính trị cao nhất Đông Nam Á. Tính theo đầu người, Việt Nam giam giữ nhiều tù nhân chính trị gấp 4 lần Trung Cộng. Tất nhiên, không ở trong tù không đồng nghĩa với được tự do, như Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi và nhiều người khác có thể chứng thực.
Vào tháng 2 năm 2021, Việt Nam tuyên bố là ứng cử viên của Hiệp Hội Các Quốc Gia Đông Nam Á vào Hội Đồng Nhân Quyền Liên Hiệp Quốc (UNHRC) cho nhiệm kỳ 2023-2025 của cơ quan này. Ngày 26 tháng 6 năm 2022, Vương Đình Huệ, chủ tịch cái gọi là Quốc Hội, đã thăm chính thức Liên Minh Âu Châu để vận động sự ủng hộ của các nước châu Âu cho việc ứng cử đó. Nếu được bầu, đây sẽ là nhiệm kỳ thứ hai của Việt Nam trong UNHRC. Tại cuộc bầu cử trước đó, Việt Nam nhận được số phiếu bầu nhiều nhất từ các thành viên Liên Hiệp Quốc, 184 trong số 192 quốc gia, với nhiều phiếu từ các quốc gia thành viên Liên Âu. Huệ rõ ràng là muốn một lần nữa trông cậy vào sự ủng hộ của các quốc gia đó.
Mặc dù là một chế độ toàn trị, dưới chế độ đó việc bầu cử tự do và nhiều quyền tự do cơ bản bị cấm, Việt Nam dường như có đủ sự ủng hộ để trở lại Hội Đồng Nhân Quyền Liên Hiệp Quốc. Tự tin về cơ hội của mình, Việt Nam thậm chí còn công khai ý định tranh cử chức Chủ tịch Hội đồng. Là cơ quan giám sát nhân quyền của LHQ “chịu trách nhiệm thúc đẩy và bảo vệ tất cả các quyền con người trên toàn cầu”, UNHRC đáng ra phải là một trong những tuyến bảo vệ đầu tiên cho Chánh Trị Sự Hứa Phi và các nhà hoạt động trong nước. Tuy nhiên, chẳng bao lâu nữa, như thành ngữ Anh nói, con cáo sẽ được trông chuồng gà.
Ngoài ra còn có một tình hướng khó xử là việc Việt Nam ủng hộ “hoạt động quân sự đặc biệt” của Putin ở Ukraine và Việt Nam bỏ phiếu phản đối nghị quyết loại Nga khỏi Hội Đồng Nhân Quyền Liên Hiệp Quốc, bất chấp bằng chứng về những hành vi vô nhân đạo của Nga. Trong cuộc gặp gỡ gần đây với Ngoại trưởng Nga Sergey Lavrov, người đồng cấp Việt Nam của ông đã tuyên bố một điều tương tự như “quan hệ đối tác không có giới hạn” giữa Nga và Trung Quốc, rằng “Nga sẽ luôn là đối tác quan trọng nhất của chúng tôi và là ưu tiên chính trong chính sách của Việt Nam”. Không có khả năng rằng, một khi có được một ghế trong UNHRC, Việt Nam sẽ bỏ phiếu khác đi khi liên quan đến Nga.
Tuyên bố mới nhất về Việt Nam của các Báo cáo viên Đặc biệt tại Văn phòng Cao ủy Nhân quyền LHQ có đoạn: “Sử dụng những luật [từ Bộ luật Hình sự Việt Nam] để giam giữ, truy tố và trừng phạt nghiêm khắc những người tranh đấu cho nhân quyền và các thành viên xã hội dân sự, những người đang hoạt động cho một xã hội tự do và công bằng hơn, là nỗ lực không chỉ để bịt miệng các cá nhân và tổ chức này mà còn tạo ra một bầu không khí đe dọa dẫn đến tự kiểm duyệt và ngăn cản những người khác lên tiếng và hợp tác với tổ chức nhân quyền của Liên Hiệp Quốc và các cơ chế khác”. Hiện tại, CTS. Hứa Phi và đồng bào của Chánh Trị Sự sẽ phải tự an ủi với những tuyên bố như vậy, vì biết rằng nhà cầm quyền Việt Nam sẽ sử dụng vị trí trong Ủy Ban Nhân Quyền LHQ để hợp pháp hóa và gia tăng các hành vi vi phạm nhân quyền.
USG CONSULTATION ON VIETNAM'S ELECTION INTEGRITY
I’m the Coordinator for Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy. The Vietnamese Communist Party organizes elections to give the communist party regime in Vietnam a source of both international and domestic legitimacy. Voter turnout in all elections is always record high, close to 100%.
The first problem with that false legitimacy involves the absence of political party competition. For the VCP-led regime, pluralism and multiparty system are unthinkable. This fundamental problem deprives voters of any alternative of policies or policymakers. It calls into question the principle of free expression of the will of the people in elections. In fact, the absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly is always taken by VCP members. The few independent candidates have been charged under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for “making, storing, or spreading information, materials, or items” against the state, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The second problem is the failed logic of accountability, which derives directly from the first problem. The system emphasizes the incentives of getting nomination and selection from the party-state. Once elected, National Assembly members are not accountable to the voters. In other words, their chance of getting re-elected or transferred to a higher position/better job depends on the political leaders, not the voters.
The third problem involves the screening and vetting of candidates. The entire process is overshadowed by opaque political maneuvering and complex procedures. There is a lengthy process for selecting candidates to ensure that those deemed unfavorable to the party are filtered out, preventing citizens from freely participating in public affairs and any real opposition voices from being heard. As such, for the candidates, “selection is more important than election.”
The fourth problem is a conflict of interests. The most evident can be seen in the membership of the National Election Council (NEC). The electoral process is overseen by the NEC, which is an ad-hoc body established by the outgoing Standing Committee of the National Assembly for each election. The NEC is officially responsible for approving the list of candidates and election outcomes. It also has the responsibility of dealing with complaints and denunciations related to voting irregularities and frauds. However, most members of the NEC, including the Chairman and Vice Chairpersons are themselves candidates running for the election.
Legitimacy can only be achieved when Vietnamese people are allowed to choose their own leaders through free and fair elections, something that requires, among other things,
the unconditional release of all political prisoners.
an end to the relentless harassment of those peacefully exercising their human rights. According to the UN, “For the right to vote and be elected to be exercised meaningfully, it is important that there is an environment in which human rights are respected and enjoyed by all individuals, in particular the rights to equality and non-discrimination, to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, to security and to an effective remedy.”
the reform of constitution and election laws.
an invitation to independent observers to monitor the elections.
The top three commitments that democracies can make to see significant progress ahead of the next Summit:
A recognition by the international community that elections in autocratic regimes like Vietnam are not free or fair and, therefore, Vietnamese authorities are not legitimate per international standards.
Formation of an international contact group to monitor elections in countries which are deemed “not free” by Freedom House, including Vietnam.
A call for a national assembly that is truly elected by the Vietnamese people as Vietnamese people’s true representatives.
Tôi là Điều phối viên của Liên minh vì Dân chủ cho Việt Nam. Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam tổ chức bầu cử để cung cấp cho chế độ cộng sản Việt Nam một nguồn lực hợp pháp hóa với quốc tế và quốc nội. Tỷ lệ cử tri đi bầu trong các cuộc bầu cử luôn cao kỷ lục, gần 100%.
Vấn đề đầu tiên với tính hợp pháp giả tạo đó liên quan đến việc không có sự cạnh tranh của các đảng phái chính trị. Đối với chế độ do ĐCSVN lãnh đạo, đa nguyên và đa đảng là điều không tưởng. Vấn đề cơ bản này khiến cử tri không có quyền thay thế các chính sách hoặc các người hoạch định chính sách. Nó đặt ra vấn đề về nguyên tắc tự do bày tỏ ý chí của người dân trong các cuộc bầu cử. Trên thực tế, các thành viên ĐCSVN chiếm đa số tuyệt đối các ghế trong Quốc Hội. Một số ứng cử viên độc lập đã bị buộc tội theo Điều 117 của Bộ luật Hình sự về tội “tạo ra, lưu trữ hoặc truyền bá thông tin, tài liệu hoặc vật phẩm” chống lại nhà nước, với hình phạt lên đến 20 năm tù.
Vấn đề thứ hai là sự thất bại của trách nhiệm giải trình, xuất phát trực tiếp từ vấn đề đầu tiên. Hệ thống bầu cử này nhấn mạnh việc được đề cử và lựa chọn từ ĐCSVN. Khi đã trúng cử, đại biểu Quốc Hội không phải chịu trách nhiệm trước cử tri. Nói cách khác, cơ hội tái đắc cử hoặc chuyển sang vị trí cao hơn / công việc tốt hơn phụ thuộc vào các lãnh tụ đảng chứ không phải vào cử tri.
Vấn đề thứ ba liên quan đến việc sàng lọc và chấp thuận các ứng cử viên. Toàn bộ quá trình này bị lu mờ bởi sự điều động chính trị không rõ ràng và các thủ tục phức tạp. Một quá trình dài để lựa chọn các ứng cử viên bảo đảm rằng những người được coi là bất lợi cho đảng bị lọc ra, ngăn cản công dân độc lập tham gia vào các hoạt động công cộng và cấm đoàn bất kỳ tiếng nói đối lập thực sự nào được lắng nghe. Như vậy, đối với các ứng cử viên, “cử quan trọng hơn bầu”.
Vấn đề thứ tư là xung đột lợi ích. Có thể thấy rõ nhất ở tư cách thành viên Hội Đồng Bầu Cử Quốc Gia. Quá trình bầu cử được giám sát bởi Hội Đồng, một cơ quan đặc biệt do Ủy ban Thường vụ Quốc hội sắp mãn nhiệm thành lập cho mỗi cuộc bầu cử. Hội Đồng chính thức chịu trách nhiệm phê duyệt danh sách các ứng cử viên và kết quả bầu cử. Nó cũng có trách nhiệm giải quyết các khiếu nại và tố cáo liên quan đến việc bỏ phiếu bất thường và gian lận. Tuy nhiên, hầu hết các thành viên của Hội Đồng, bao gồm Chủ tịch và các Phó Chủ tịch đều là ứng cử viên tham gia tranh cử.
Tính hợp pháp chỉ có thể đạt được khi người dân Việt Nam được phép lựa chọn lãnh đạo của mình thông qua các cuộc bầu cử tự do và công bằng. Các cuộc bầu cử như vậy đòi hỏi, ngoài những thứ khác,
việc trả tự do vô điều kiện cho tất cả các tù nhân chính trị.
chấm dứt sự đàn áp liên tục đối với những người thực thi một cách hòa bình quyền con người của họ. Theo LHQ, “Để quyền đi bầu và được bầu được thực hiện một cách có ý nghĩa, điều quan trọng là phải có một môi trường trong đó các quyền con người được tôn trọng và thụ hưởng bởi mọi cá nhân, đặc biệt là quyền bình đẳng và không phân biệt đối xử, tự do quan điểm và biểu đạt, tự do hội họp và lập hội một cách hòa bình, sự an ninh và một biện pháp khắc phục hiệu quả."
cải cách hiến pháp và luật bầu cử.
mời các quan sát viên độc lập theo dõi các cuộc bầu cử.
Ba cam kết hàng đầu mà các nền dân chủ có thể thực hiện để đạt được tiến bộ đáng kể trước Hội Nghị Thượng Đỉnh tiếp theo:
Cộng đồng quốc tế thừa nhận rằng các cuộc bầu cử trong các chế độ chuyên quyền như Việt Nam là không tự do hay công bằng và do đó, các cơ quan chức năng của Việt Nam là không hợp pháp theo tiêu chuẩn quốc tế.
Thành lập một nhóm liên lạc quốc tế để giám sát các cuộc bầu cử ở các quốc gia được Freedom House cho là “không tự do”, trong đó có Việt Nam.
Kêu gọi một Quốc Hội do người dân Việt Nam thực sự bầu ra với tư cách là đại biểu thực sự của dân tộc.
USG CONSULTATION ON VIETNAM'S GENDER ISSUES
Thank you for this opportunity. Before talking about recommendations, some background information is needed. According to a 2017 Financial Times survey, even though Vietnamese women have a high participation rate in the labor force, they have the lowest female-to-male ratio in top management, with one woman to every eight men, compared with 1:5.6 in Malaysia, 1:2.8 in the Philippines and 1:2.2 in Thailand. The gender earnings gap is estimated to be at 29.5 percent. There are fewer opportunities for women to access high-income jobs, and women remain more vulnerable when businesses need to eliminate jobs.
In Viet Nam, women continue to form a large majority of the working poor, earn less income, and are more often affected by under- and un-employment and precarious working conditions than men. Women in Viet Nam are principally found in lower paid occupational sectors or in vulnerable employment. The majority of women work as unpaid family workers, and in largely "invisible" areas of informal employment as migrant domestic workers, homeworkers, street vendors and sex workers.
A recent study found that fifty-eight percent of women in Viet Nam experience emotional, physical or sexual domestic violence during their lifetime. Violence against women can include domestic violence, marital rape, trafficking in women and girls, violations of women’s reproductive rights and violations of human rights. Nearly 32 percent of the women suffer the abuse within the year.
For the past 20 years, Vietnam has become a major exporter of foreign brides to East Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan. In China alone, an estimated 100,000 Vietnamese foreign brides exist. There is little governmental oversight on the Vietnamese side of marriage migration, which means that potential brides are vulnerable to brokers and criminal elements in the process of migrating abroad. There is also a governmental incentive as many of these brides or sex workers send money home to their family, with a portion as bribes for government officials.
Vietnamese girls are sold to China for up to $5,000 as brides or to brothels, said Michael Brosowski, founder and chief executive of the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. According to another study, 86% of these trafficked women and girls reported sexual violence. A recent study indicated that 5.6% or 5 million Vietnamese children are victims of sex trafficking.
The interests of women are poorly represented in government. As Vietnam does not allow for free and fair elections, this closed system further biases against women and girls. To have the most impact on this issue to best bolster our democracy promotion globally, we believe that the USG needs to focus its diplomatic efforts in this year of action to assist CSOs in their efforts to educate women and girls of their rights and opportunities.
Vietnam has a large number of female political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Their plights have been largely overlooked as the US is pushing an unproductive policy of courting Communist Vietnam to counter Communist China. We believe that the USG needs to hold Vietnam accountable and sanction Vietnam for its violation of women rights, by applying current legislations such as the Global Magnitsky Act. We also need to empower women by aligning ourselves with their struggle and help promote better political participation for women to protect their rights.
USG CONSULTATION ON VIETNAM'S WORKERS RIGHTS
We want to address how workers rights can be limited in a system which does not allow for broader labor rights, or even human rights.
In Vietnam for example, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement made allowance for workers representative organizations (WROs), independent groups in which employees can supposedly for the first time petition their employers without interference from the communist authorities. Yet, Vietnamese authorities have delayed introducing key reforms, including legislation to determine how WROs can be created.
But WROs are different from trade unions in many ways. They are only allowed to collectively bargain and organize strikes at the individual enterprise level, meaning they are restricted to individual companies.
Unlike trade unions, they are unable to form sectoral or regional federations to represent the interests of workers from different companies.
This reduces their bargaining abilities to create equal working conditions across sectors of the economy. Worse, it injects competition between workers of different companies.
The creation of WROs could be a step backward in terms of labor rights, creating a "false image" of progress. Because WROs will have to remain small, they will be easily harassed by the authorities and employer groups.
And the complicated system of how WROs are regulated by the government, which still hasn't been promulgated, will mean the authorities can easily disbar the groups if they grow too forceful, while key labor activists will be banned from participating in them.
Despite communist repression, several independent (and therefore illegal) trade unions have been created over the years, although almost all were swiftly shut down by the authorities and their leaders arrested and jailed.
Vietnam remains a one-party state with a single, state-led union federation, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL). At the enterprise level, the VGCL is dominated by employers, with trade union representatives often being the human resource managers of the companies who normally do not stand up for workers. At the national level, as a state-led union, the VGCL is subordinate to the government and the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, so it is unable to struggle for workers’ interests independently.
Workers rights cannot exist independently inside a system which does not allow for other rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association.
Our activists in Vietnam still ask for the passing of legislation regulating the WROs. So, we too want to take this opportunity to ask for that to help these young workers from being arrested. We also ask that our diplomatic efforts in this year of action need to be focused on countries that do not have rights for workers, as limits on workers on any country are also limits on rights for workers in the US.
USG CONSULTATION ON BRIBERY IN VIETNAM
According to Transparency International, 64% of Vietnamese people think government corruption is a big problem. A study has shown at least 30% of Vietnamese public and civil servants have indicated that they are willing to take a bribe. In Vietnam bribery is seen as a customary business expense.
Bribery is endemic in Vietnam because it is a symptom of an unchecked authoritarian system of governance without accountability. The solution for that is an elected government with its checks and balances, which Vietnam does not have.
Bribery, with its dirty money, can become self-sustaining as it becomes life blood for the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party. Its members send the bribe money abroad to the US and other Western countries to pay for fancy houses, fast cars, super yachts and expensive education for their children and grandchildren. More dangerously, this dirty money can also funnel into the US political arena to influence elections.
It is here that financial investigations and asset tracing of corruption money will be of benefits. It can take the profit out of crime. For Vietnam, which tops the list for world’s illicit financial flow, stopping the illegal money to the US and other Western countries will go a long way to stop incentivizing corruption and possibly authoritarianism.
LETTER TO THE US ADMINISTRATION RE. THE US-ASEAN LEADERS SUMMIT
April 30, 2022
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We, the undersigned organizations, write to urge you to carefully review your invitation to Vietnam’s leadership to attend the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Summit. As your Administration seeks to build a “Year of Action” to turn commitments from the Summit for Democracy into concrete results that shore up democracies around the world, it serves as a reminder that appropriately Vietnam was not invited to the Summit.
The Uyghur Tribunal has presented evidence that Vietnam was complicit with China in its genocide of the Uyghur people by killing and repatriating Uyghurs who escaped to Vietnam. The US Department of Homeland Security is considering evidence that Vietnam has been importing Xinjiang cotton to supply an increased market share, thus helping China bypass the US sanction prescribed in the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Along with China, Vietnam abstained on the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and voted against suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. Meanwhile, its military leaders have recited Moscow's rationale for the invasion, going as far as blaming the war on Ukraine for “joining the US in encircling, restraining and weakening Russia.” As fighting rages across Ukraine, Russia and Vietnam are planning to hold a joint military training exercise, according to Russian state media. Communist Vietnam needs to be held accountable to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and not be invited to the White House for state dinners and celebrations.
The US, through the Summit for Democracy, pledges to push back against the same authoritarianism, systemic corruption, and rights violation that Vietnam exemplifies. Hanoi has consistently sided with Beijing, including its insistence on a Chinese model of “socialist democracy.” Its latest support of Russia further solidifies Vietnam’s position in a Sino-Russian axis of autocracy.
Today is the 47th anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam caused by an invasion of a free country with a democratic government. The dramatic situation in Ukraine has reminded the international community of the need of solidarity with countries and peoples seeking freedom. As we pray for and support the brave Ukrainian people, our hearts also go to the Vietnamese people. Eight decades under communism have not diminished their determination to fight for freedom; dampened their spirit for human rights; or shaken their tenacity and courage to stand up for democracy and self-determination. The vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific should be built with free peoples and open societies, not by the superimposition of a military construct on an oppressed people.
The US is always uniquely positioned to advocate for democracy in Vietnam. As your Administration contemplates the role of Vietnam in the upcoming US-ASEAN Summit, we believe that our nation will stand to lose when we welcome an authoritarian state just a few months after the promises of the Summit for Democracy. As we sanction China and denounce Russia, we urge that you examine Vietnam’s records and complicity in all our dealings with its totalitarian authority.
Most Ven. Thich Khong Tanh
Vice President, Sangha of Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam
Co-chair, INTERFAITH COUNCIL OF VIETNAM
Sub-dignitary Hua Phi
Chair, Representative Committee of the Popular Bloc of Cao Dai Church
Co-chair, INTERFAITH COUNCIL OF VIETNAM
President, Vietnam Human Rights Day May 11 Organization
President, Viet2000 Foundation
Dr. Nhu Phuc Nguyen, MD
VP, Vietnam Democracy Center
President, Vietnamese American Republicans of Georgia
Van Nha Nguyen
Treasurer, Vietnam Democracy Center
Thang Nghia Society
Linh Nguyen, JD
President, Minh Van Foundation
Dr. Quoc-Hung Tran, MD
Coordinator, Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy
Phan Thanh Chau
VP, Vietnamese Nationalist Party
Dr. Mai Thanh Tuyet, PhD
President, Vietnamese AMERICAN Environmental Protection SOCIETY
Dr. Nhatthien Nguyen, PhD
President, Vietnam Democracy Center
Coordinator, Thang Nghia Society
Vũ Hoàng Hải
Representative, Bloc 8406 International
Dr. Long Ba Nguyen
Editor-in-Chief, The Viet Democratic Side's International Forum
Dr. Huu Dinh Vo, MD
President Executive Committee, United Council of Vietnamese Homeland and Overseas
Vũ Văn Thái
Secretary General, World Vietnamese Buddhist Order
Vũ Duy Toại
Representative, Republic Vietnam Organization Federal Republic of Germany
Dr. Trong Phan
President, Vietnamese American Communities of the USA
LTC. Quoc-Anh Tran
President, Federation of Vietnamese American Communities of the USA
LETTER TO US CONGRESS RE. VIETNAM'S EXPORTING COTTON FROM XINJIANG
We are writing to express our sincere gratitude for your leadership in confronting the on-going genocide of the Uyghur people. We also respectfully ask that, as a supporter of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, you would examine the origin of imported cotton products from Vietnam. The amount of total cotton exports from the rest of China, minus Xinjiang, to the rest of the world is 1200 million kg annually. So, for the 939 million kg of annual cotton import to Vietnam from China, it’s easy to argue that at least a significant fraction of which is from the Xinjiang region.
According to the World Bank, between 2002 and 2020, China was by far the largest source of garment imports into the US.1 In 2020, just when the Trump administration started an import ban on all cotton from western China’s Xinjiang, Vietnam suddenly outstripped China as the biggest exporter of garments to the US market, from 16 percent market share the year before.2 Evidences also strongly suggest that Vietnam has been importing Xinjiang cotton to supply the increased market share, helping China bypassing the US sanction prescribed in the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
It is well documented that (as of 2019) 85% of cotton grown in China is produced in Xinjiang, constituting approximately 22% of global cotton. In the last several years, China has encouraged the rapid growth of textile and apparel manufacturing in the Uyghur Region. Nonetheless, international shipping records indicate that cotton goods export shipments from the Uyghur Region direct to the United States have nearly ceased altogether in the last two years. This suggests that the cotton and cotton-based yarn, textiles, and finished garments grown and manufactured for export in the Uyghur Region must be transported from the region to other locations before being shipped internationally. Cotton from the region, an important export, is used in textiles made in other countries, such as Vietnam.3
While the United States remained the largest consumer of finished apparel from China, the top two destinations (in terms of both value and weight) for China’s export of raw cotton, yarn, and fabric are Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Out of the 53 international intermediary manufacturers that purchase unfinished cotton goods from five leading Chinese manufacturers that have sourced Xinjiang cotton, six are from Vietnam (Eins Vina, Indo Taichen Textile Industry, Nobland Vietnam, Seshin Vietnam, Thanh Cong Textile Garment, and Tung Mung Textile).
10 well-known international brands that are supplied by those Vietnamese intermediaries and are thus at high risk of having Xinjiang cotton in their supply chains.
· Eins Vina: Gap, PVH Corp, Eileen Fisher
· Indo Taichen Textile Industry: international intermediaries
· Nobland Vietnam: Eileen Fisher, Everlane, Levi’s
· Seshin Vietnam: Gap, American Eagle
· Thanh Cong Textile Garment: Eddie Bauer
· Tung Mung Textile: Adidas Canada
UN Comtrade data reveals that more than half of China’s exports of cotton semi-finished products are destined for countries within Asia, with Vietnam the second most popular destination, after Bangladesh. Analysis of shipping data suggests that, once there, international intermediary manufacturers produce finished garments from the semi-finished products for export around the world, often with the precise composition of the materials supplied by the suspect Chinese suppliers.
The effect is a “laundering” of Xinjiang cotton—obscuring its movement so that the provenance of a finished garment’s cotton becomes difficult to detect. The benefits of such an export strategy may be clear: the end buyer is no longer directly involved in buying Xinjiang cotton—international brands and wholesalers can buy from factories in third countries that have few visible ties with Uyghur Region-based companies. A stable supply of Xinjiang cotton to the international market is thus guaranteed, even as brands, governments, and consumers increasingly turn away from Xinjiang forced-labor-made goods.
A total of 213 regions reported importing cotton or cotton-mixed products from China between 2016 and 2019. In terms of product value (in U.S. dollars), the largest importing regions were:
· United States ($50.1 billion)
· Hong Kong ($23.1 billion)
· Japan ($21 billion)
· Vietnam ($20 billion)
The top importers of cotton and cotton-mixed products by weight were:
· United States (3.1 billion kg)
· Vietnam (2 billion kg)
· Hong Kong (2 billion kg)
· Bangladesh (1.6 billion kg)
The primary export destinations of semi-finished cotton products under HS 52 heading (primarily consists of cotton yarn, thread, and fabric, but also includes raw cotton and cotton-waste products, the predecessors of finished apparel) from China in terms of value (in USD):
· Bangladesh ($9.7 billion)
· Vietnam ($7.3 billion)
· Philippines ($5.5 billion)
· Hong Kong ($4.5 billion)
· Indonesia ($2.3 billion)
· Cambodia ($2 billion)
The export destinations with the highest weight of HS 52 exports are the same (though in slightly different order).
· Bangladesh (1.3 billion kg)
· Vietnam (939.3 million kg)
· Philippines (709.1 million kg)
· Hong Kong (707.9 million kg)
· Cambodia (291.8 million kg)
· Indonesia (284 million kg)
Those top six countries accounted for more than 52% of all shipments of HS52 leaving China in terms of both value and weight. Vietnam, one of the top imports, is also home to a high number of export-grade apparel manufacturers.
All five Chinese cotton enterprises that have been supplied by the Uyghur Region’s cotton industry, Jiangsu Lianfa Group (江苏联发纺织股份有限公 司), Luthai Textile Co., Ltd. (鲁泰纺织股份有限公司), Huafu Fashion Co., Ltd. (华孚时尚股份有限公司), Texhong Textile Group (天虹紡織集團有限公司), and Weiqiao Textile Co., Ltd. (山东魏桥纺织股份有 限公司) export a significant number of shipments of cotton goods to Vietnam for intermediary manufacturing. One company, Huafu, has production bases in Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and Jiangsu provinces, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Additionally, it has established production facilities in Vietnam. Huafu often sells cotton yarn to international intermediary manufacturers that then produce fabric for sale to another intermediary that manufacturers the finished products for sale to international markets.
Luthai Textile Co. Ltd (also spelled Lutai or Lu Thai), based in Zibo, Shandong province, is a textile enterprise with vertically integrated production, from spinning to weaving to clothing manufacturing. According to the company, as of 2020, Lu Thai’s global market share of “yarn dyed fabrics for medium and high-end shirts” amounts to 18%. Around 70% of Luthai’s products are exported abroad—mainly to the United States, European Union, and Japan—and the company has also established production bases in Vietnam.
Texhong Textile Group (also known as Tianhong, or Rainbow Textile) is one of China’s largest cotton textile manufacturers, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Shanghai. The company was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2004. The company’s business scope includes manufacturing of yarns, fabrics, and garments, with a focus on the production of cotton yarn. Texhong has a number of production locations, both in China (including in the Uyghur Region) and abroad (Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Mexico).
China is also the world’s largest apparel producer. Most of these textiles and apparel are exported to the United States, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.5 Vietnam is also a top exporter of textiles.6
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act creates a rebuttable presumption that goods produced in whole or in part in the Xinjiang are produced with forced labor and, therefore, prohibited from importation. We believe that to comply with this legislation, the presumption should also be extended to cotton fabric imported from Vietnam, which, in turn, is importing cotton and other predecessors of finished apparel from Xinjiang.
Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy
1. "United States Textiles and Clothing Imports by country in US$ Thousand 2018." World Integrated Trade Solutions, World Bank, https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/USA/Year/2018/TradeFlow/Import/Partner/by-country/Product/50-63_TextCloth
2. Leng, Sdney. "China no longer top clothes exporter to US as Vietnam gains market share." South China Morning Post, 7 August 2020, https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3096504/china-no-longer-top-clothes-exporter-us-vietnam-gains-market
3. "Can American firms rid their supply chains of Xinjiang goods?" The Economist, 1 January 2022, https://www.economist.com/business/2022/01/01/can-american-firms-rid-their-supply-chains-of-xinjiang-goods
4. Murphy, Laura, et al. "Laundering Cotton, How Xinjiang Cotton is Obscured in International Supply Chains." Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, November 2021, https://www.shu.ac.uk/-/media/home/research/helena-kennedy-centre/projects/laundering-cotton-annexes/laundering-cotton.pdf
5. Lehr, Amy. "Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda." Center for Strategic and International Studies, 30 July 2020, https://www.csis.org/analysis/addressing-forced-labor-xinjiang-uyghur-autonomous-region-toward-shared-agenda
6. "Top textile exporting countries worldwide 2020". Statista, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/236397/value-of-the-leading-global-textile-exporters-by-country/
TESTIMONY TO FORCED LABOR ENFORCEMENT TASK FORCE
We have submitted a written statement to DHS. In this 3-minute session, I hope to give a different view of the numbers.
Between 2016 and 2019, Vietnam is second on the list of the top importers of cotton and cotton-mixed products from China by weight at 2 billion kg, after the US. If we break this down to semi-finished cotton products under HS 52 heading importing from China (primarily consists of cotton yarn, thread, and fabric, but also includes raw cotton and cotton-waste products), Vietnam is again second on the list, behind Bangladesh, at 939 million kg, or 11% of total Chinese HS 52 exports. To put that in perspective, the total HS 52 imports to the US from China is only 2%.
The amount of total HS 52 exports from the rest of China, minus Xinjiang, to the rest of the world is 1200 million kg. So for that 939 million kg of HS 52 import to Vietnam from China, it’s easy to argue that at least a significant fraction the total cotton imports to Vietnam is from the Xinjiang region.
All five Chinese cotton enterprises that have been supplied by the Uyghur Region’s cotton industry export a significant number of shipments of cotton goods to Vietnam for intermediary manufacturing. Three out of five have also established production bases in Vietnam.
Vietnam is a top importer of textiles and apparel from China. Vietnam is also a top exporter of textiles. This creates a possible problem for illegal transshipment.
Our recommendation to the task force is that in order to comply with this legislation, the presumption should also be extended to cotton fabric imported from Vietnam. Thank you for this opportunity.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNTERING AUTHORITARIANISM ADVISORY GROUP
Support for democracy and human rights plays a fundamental role in combatting oppression, building democracies, and reducing poverty in all its dimensions. Vietnam’s democracy should be guided by the principles that human rights are universal, interdependent, and indivisible to gain trust and support from overseas and international communities.
About 1.2 million Vietnamese have participated in a referendum with 95% of them in favor of taking legal action in international courts against China’s aggression in the South China Sea. This demonstrates the fundamental and universal human need for a democratic society in which elected leaders listen and carry out the will of the people.
By advocating for a multi-party system, tightening the amendment process, and getting approval from the citizens, we ensure that our constitution model, with 3.1 million responses with the approval rate for each article ranging from 87 to 97%, will be practiced rather than just looking good on paper.
A democratic Vietnam needs to form alliances with other free and democratic countries to stop the expansion of totalitarianism in Asia and the rest of the world. Building an alliance against China’s genocide and other crimes against humanity is a part of the defense of democracy.
· Direct engagement with the Vietnamese people, through civil societies and organizations, as stakeholders and agents of change for a democratic Vietnam.
· Governmental support for freedom of expression through a free and open internet in Vietnam, with a recognition that Vietnam’s democracy should be guided by the principles that human rights are universal, interdependent, and indivisible.
· International support for free and fair elections in Vietnam, with the right to run for office and right to nominate candidates with a diversity of ideas and political affiliations.
EDITORIAL: AXIS OF EVIL
According to The New York Times, since November 2021 senior Biden administration officials held half a dozen urgent meetings with top Chinese officials in which the Americans presented intelligence showing Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine and pleaded the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade.
Each time, the Chinese rebuffed the Americans, and instead “shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord — and that China would not try to impede Russian plans and actions.”
On February 4, 2022, with knowledge of the impending invasion, Mr. Xi signed with Mr. Putin a joint statement of their friendship with “no limits” and “no forbidden areas of cooperation” and agreed on a plan to delay the invasion to after the Olympics. They also inked fifteen cooperation agreements covering geopolitical, trade and investment areas, involving oil, natural gas, wheat, and renminbi currency settlements, with the energy deal alone valued at $117.5 billion. As Putin was undoubtedly concerned about impending Western sanctions, the agreements would seem to help Russia’s ability to face the economic fallout.
As Russia, the world’s top producer of wheat, attacks Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe, the Chinese leader made a market decision to allow imports of wheat from all regions of Russia, likely anticipating a disruption of the global supply of wheat. Despite the apparent preparation, Mr. Xi and the Chinese government persist on blaming the invasion on the US, as Mr. Xi lectured Mr. Biden in their most recent phone conversation, “Let he who tied the bell on the tiger's neck take it off." He meant to say that because the problem was created by the US, it cannot and should not be solved by China.
On the same day in February, China and Russia also announced an extensive Sino-Russian economic cooperation plan. Russian oil company Rosneft and Chinese energy company CNPC signed a 10-year agreement for the shipment of 100 million tons of oil to China, as if anticipating a ban by the US on Russian oil. This prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to announce on March 3, 2022 that Russia has enough buyers for its oil and gas even with sanctions.
According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, the country is Russia’s largest trading partner as trade between the two countries in 2021 reached $146.87 billion. Before the invasion of Ukraine, the two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade to $250 billion in 2024, a 70% increase compared to current trade amount.
Chinese import of Russian goods and services had the large upsurge by 37.5% to $79.32 billion in the 12 months before the invasion of Ukraine. This amount is projected to rise to $134.84 billion annually in 2 years.
According to TASS, the Russian News Agency, Mr. Xi emphasized to Mr. Putin that he “respects the actions of the Russian leadership in the current crisis situation” in a call the day after the invasion. Chinese media and websites are not allowed to publish articles or statements critical of Russia or supportive of Ukraine. Censorship of Chinese social media has been ramped up to eliminate any discussions unfavorable to Moscow’s “special military operation”. China abstained three times at the UN, at the Security Council, on the General Assembly’s resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and again on yesterday’s resolution on the humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine.
Instead of complying with the sanctions on Russia, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi threatened retaliations if China was hurt by Western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. As refusal to use considerable influence to stop an unjust war against a sovereign state is an abrogation of duty for a permanent member of the UN Security Council, financial support for the aggressor may be considered collusion or inducement. Sadly, in this regard, China is not the only culprit.
In 2021, China exported $3.36 trillion worth of goods, of which $590 billion was earned from exporting to the United States. Exports to the European Union amounted to $530 billion. Exports to Japan were worth roughly $156 billion. The three items add up to about $1.276 trillion, or 38% of China’s total export. China’s overall trade surplus in 2021 was $676 billion, of which the US accounts for $355.3, the EU $141.89 billion.
As they were in 2014, sanctions against Russia will not work if they don’t include China. Subsequently, any sanction against China will not be effective if we continue to buy Chinese products and our companies continue to invest in China. It is a choice between our values and our consumption, each with obligatory consequences. We will reap what we sow.
STATEMENT TO US AMBASSADOR TO VIETNAM
Thank you, Ambassador Knapper, for this opportunity, and Dr. Quan for organizing this. Congratulations on your new post. Vietnam is a beautiful country and Vietnamese people are a very friendly people, so we think that you will have a great time. Challenging, but still great.
I’m the coordinator for Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy, an alliance of 19 organizations. At the behest of Prof Hung Phan, we compiled a short list of 4 recommendations. I will ask your permission to read them out and I can elaborate afterward if I’m allowed.
- We believe that it’s important to include a strong focus on strengthening outreach to human rights defenders. We should have public-facing operational guidelines that help the Embassy to establish open, clear, secure, and sustained lines of communication with human rights defenders under threat. Our first recommendation is that - the Embassy to designate an officer of human rights, democracy and labor whose portfolio includes activities to support human rights defenders. This is in consistent with the department’s guidelines. As part of the EU guidelines, for example, EU embassy websites are supposed to identify a human rights defenders liaison officer with contact information. Human rights officers have usually been lower-level embassy officials. In politically sensitive countries like Vietnam, it is important for higher-level officials to play a more active role.
- Our second recommendation is that - the Embassy to publicize the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act in Vietnamese in its dealings with Vietnamese authorities. This legislation should be translated into Vietnamese and posted prominently on U.S. embassy website and Facebook page.
- We understand that this is likely outside the mandate of the Embassy but it’s worth mentioning that the US should not implicitly recognize that Vietnamese elections are free and fair. If the US can condemn elections in Venezuela as not meeting minimum international standards, then the elections in Vietnam are not meeting any of the 10 international standards. In fact, it does not even allow for political expression. So, our next recommendation is that - the Embassy to promote the US's ideals of verifiable free and fair elections in Vietnam as important first steps to any inclusion in future Summit of Democracy.
- the Embassy to support multilateralism, diversity, and inclusion through equitable exchanges of ideas and cultures between the two countries. I think that we have ideas for US -Vietnam Friendship Clubs or Associations in Vietnam. If Vietnam can freely develop such organizations in the US, we think that the US should also be able to establish such organizations in Vietnam.
Again, our congratulations to you and we wish you luck and success in this new endeavor.