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Letter to President Trump prior to APEC Summit in Vietnam
President Trump will leave the US for Asia this Friday. We would like House members of Congress to ask him to bring up human rights issues during his two-day visit to Vietnam. Attached is the letter that is to be signed by House Representatives and released early morning this Friday.

Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to sign on. Those who are interested in signing on should contact Scott Flipse: scott.flipse@mail.house.gov.

Thank you for your support.

CFDV Media Team.

(Below is the letter to be sent to your Congressperson)

November 3, 2017
Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington DC

Dear President Trump,

During your visit to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Da Nang we urge you to impress upon the Communist Party leaders in Hanoi that expanded economic and strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam will depend on real and concrete improvements in Vietnam’s dismal human rights record. A government that routinely ignores or flouts universal standards and its international commitments is unlikely to be a reliable partner on key issues such as the South China Sea and trade, topics which will no doubt feature prominently on the agenda during your visit.

We are gravely concerned about the harassment, intimidation, assaults, and imprisonment of rights defenders, bloggers, and religious leaders. Basic rights in Vietnam, including freedom of religion, speech, press, and association, are severely circumscribed. Religious groups face systematic, ongoing, and egregious restrictions for seeking to organize independent of government control, and workers are not allowed to form independent unions. Torture is endemic in the Vietnamese prison system and there is no independent judiciary. The Communist Party does not allow challenges to its leadership and maintains, often brutally, its monopoly on power.

In your speech to the United Nations in September you said that the “United States of America will stand with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well-being, including their prosperity.” During your visit to Poland in July, you also stated “we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are.”

The Vietnamese people do not have freedom and face harsh repression for standing up for human rights and democracy. Your advocacy for individual rights and the rule of law will be warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people. Over 66% of the Vietnamese population was born after 1975 and these young people are overwhelmingly pro-American and seek the rights and liberties enjoyed by their relatives in California, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and many other states where Vietnamese-Americans have flourished and become such an important part of our American fabric.

If history is a guide, your advocacy will also bring tangible results. The Vietnamese government has responded to concerns expressed by the last two administrations when human rights improvements were linked to better U.S.-Vietnam relations. Whether to gain entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or to address U.S. concerns over violations of religious freedom, the Vietnamese government took steps toward reform when seriously pressed by past American presidents. Unfortunately, when the desired trade, investment, or security cooperation was received, the Vietnamese government abandoned these reforms without consequence. This is a trend detrimental to U.S. interests and prestige and can be reversed by your Administration.

On your trip, and as part of a long-range effort to promote your Administration’s goal of a free, stable, and open Indo-Pacific region, we urge you to develop policy approaches that intertwine U.S. human rights, economic, security, and political interests in Vietnam. As such, we hope you will prioritize the following issues during your visit that, we believe, will advance both American interests and those of the Vietnamese people.

Promote a Free Internet: Vietnam continues to have one of the world’s most restriction Internet environments, with pervasive filtering of content and the widespread arrest of activists for their online activities. Because Internet freedom is an issue that advances both American economic and human rights interests, we urge the Administration to seek an agreement with the Vietnamese government to ease Internet restrictions, develop and distribute effective technologies that provide or enhance access to the Internet for Vietnamese citizens; and seek and end to the arrests of bloggers, journalists, and pro-democracy activists for their online activity.

Focus on Religious Freedom: Countries that protect religious freedom are more prosperous, stable, and democratic; thus the severe restrictions faced by religious groups in Vietnam are detrimental to both U.S. and Vietnamese interests. We urge you and your Administration to focus on allowing independent religious organizations to operate outside of government control and to end impunity for government officials who harass, arrest, and torture independent Christians and other religious believers by using effectively the tools of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.

End Government-Sponsored Human Trafficking. The Vietnamese government is complicit in human trafficking – subjecting hundreds of thousands of its citizens to forced labor in “rehabilitation” centers, detention centers, and prisons and sending tens of thousands of its citizens into modern-day slavery in different countries through the government labor export program. Emphasize Legal Reforms That Will Enhance Freedom: Vietnam is using its laws to restrict freedom of religion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly – such as the laws against “propaganda against the state” and “taking advantage of democratic freedoms to injure the national unity.” Arbitrary laws, used with impunity to target those peacefully seeking reforms and enforced by a weak judiciary, not only are a violation of universal standards but also have important implications for U.S. investments and businesses.

Seek Releases of Political & Religious Prisoners: We were encouraged by the recent release of Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and his family and by your Administration’s effort to seek their release and resettlement in the United States. Nevertheless, international human rights organizations have documented that there are at least one hundred political prisoners still detained in Vietnam. We ask that your Administration continue to focus on the release of political and religious prisoners including, among others, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Nguyen Van Dai, Tran Thi Nga, Tran Anh Kim, and Le Thanh Tung.

Proper Compensation for Property Confiscated from American Citizens: In 2010, the Da Nang city government, which will host the APEC Summit, forcibly expropriated land from the 142-year-old Catholic parish of Con Dau, arresting and torturing parishioners and disbanding the parish in the process. A number of the confiscated properties belonged to former residents of Con Dau who had long since become United States citizens. The Vietnamese government’s expropriation of properties of U.S. citizens is a widespread phenomenon affecting potentially tens of thousands of Americans.

We strongly believe that closer relations with the United States should be incumbent upon greater respect from the Communist Party and government in Vietnam for human rights and the rule of law. A Vietnam that respects human rights and abides by the rule of law not only advances vital U.S. interests, strengthening American security and prosperity, but furthers the Vietnamese people’s desire for freedom, prosperity, and justice.

We look forward to working with you to build a stronger and more prosperous U.S.-Vietnam relationship.

Sincerely,
Human Right & Democracy Defenders
   
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