For Immediate Release Contact: Bill Cooper/Julianne Lignelli
July 16, 2003 714-992-8081/202-225-4111
Vietnam Human Rights Act Passes House
Legislation to Promote Human Rights in Vietnam included in Foreign Relations Authorization Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep Ed Royce (R-CA-40) co-authored legislation to bring attention to the abysmal human rights record of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It passed the House during action on the Foreign Relations Authorization Act [H.R. 1950]. The Vietnam Human Rights Act was introduced by Royce in April and was included as an amendment to the larger foreign relations bill.
"Today's vote was a vote of support for all those struggling for human rights and democracy in Vietnam. The stories of persecution and torture at the hands of Vietnam's communist rulers are staggering and appalling. Innocent people in Vietnam are persecuted because of their religion, ethnicity or pro-democracy beliefs. This bill is a strike for freedom," said Royce.
In an effort to promote religious freedom and democracy in Vietnam, the bill will prohibit non-humanitarian U.S. aid from being provided to Vietnam unless the Vietnamese government begins freeing political prisoners and respecting the rights of ethnic minorities.
The bill also provides additional funding for Radio Free Asia (RFA) to overcome jamming efforts by the Vietnamese government. "RFA will now be better able to bring objective news - the truth - to the Vietnamese people," said Royce
Royce noted that the base text of the bill includes provisions to create an office of Global Internet Freedom. Vietnam has recently launched a crackdown on Internet usage to oppress free speech. Cyber cafe owners and Internet service providers are now required by law to monitor customers' activities and prevent distribution of unsanctioned material.
"Last year, a young political dissident was sentenced to four years in prison for publishing an essay online. He joins a growing list of students imprisoned for expressing support for either democracy or free speech on the Internet. This case sent a clear message to the burgeoning Internet generation that the Vietnamese government will not tolerate freedom of expression. The number of people online in Vietnam jumped to 1.3 million in 2002 from only 300,000 in 2001. The Office of Global Internet Freedom, with its mission to counter Internet jamming and blocking, will bolster those working to promote democracy and human rights through the Internet," concluded Royce.
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (CA-40)
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4111 phone
(202) 607-3683 cell
(202) 226-0335 fax