Statement of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
Vietnam Human Rights Act
September 6, 2001
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of HR 2833, the Vietnam Human Rights Act, a resolution to promote democracy and freedom in Vietnam.
Last weekend many of us were celebrating Labor Day with our constituents and families, honoring our country’s proud traditions of democracy and freedom. Last weekend in Danang, Vietnam, a 61-year-old monk set himself on fire in protest of the communist authorities’ repression of religious freedoms.
Before his death, Ho Tan Anh wrote letters to the UN Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Commission of the European Union and other international groups, stating simply, “I have…decided that the only way I can protest is by setting my body on fire to denounce repression against the UBCV and all other religions.”
I have with me the Declaration of Vietnamese Priests Abroad, an open letter to the international community condemning the vicious repression of religious and other basic human rights in Vietnam. This letter, dated August 15th, was signed by 144 Catholic priests worldwide and calls upon “freedom loving governments…to defend the values of human rights, which are being trampled on in Vietnam.”
A few months ago, Congressman Davis, Congresswoman Sanchez and I held a hearing on the human rights situation in Vietnam. Several of our invited guests, prominent religious leaders in Vietnam, were unable to leave Vietnam to give their testimony.
As a result of this hearing, the Congressional Dialogue on Vietnam relaunched its “Adopt a Voice of Conscience” Campaign. My colleagues and I have been in constant contact with the Vietnamese American community and the State Department about the safety of Father Nguyen Van Ly, Venerable Thich Quang Do, and other leaders we know are being harassed or detained. I invite my colleagues again to join this bipartisan campaign and make the release of these prisoners of conscience a prominent issue in US policy towards Vietnam.
The Vietnamese people deserve to live in full freedom. Countless brave Vietnamese are currently in prison, under house arrest, or suffering other kinds of persecution.
These “voices of conscience” are both our inspiration and our responsibility. It is our duty to ensure that those who are courageous enough to speak out against injustice have our support and our protection.
Our offices have received hundreds of letters from our Vietnamese American constituents, calling upon Congress to pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act.
This bill tells the truth. It does not restrict trade in any way. It does not limit humanitarian aid to Vietnam. It remembers by name those who have been persecuted because of their beliefs.
It is important human rights legislation that I am proud to support, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. Thank you.