In early February, Vietnam released several prisoners of conscience, including Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, Huynh Van Ba, Nguyen Dinh Huy, and Dr. Nguyen Dan Que. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. welcomed their release "and urged the government of Vietnam to permit these and other individuals to express their political views freely and practice religion peacefully in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect."
Since his release, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que has been at home where he is under surveillance and his telephone is tapped. Dr. Que has been imprisoned three times by Vietnamese authorities for protesting violations of human rights and calling for democratic reform. Dr. Que says, "What I want is liberty for my people." He continues to call on Vietnamese authorities to respect basic rights and "put forward a timetable for free and fair elections."
In September 2004, the U.S. designated Vietnam a "country of particular concern" because of severe violations of religious freedom. There are some instances in which security forces beat and arbitrarily detained religious believers.
The State Department's latest human rights report describes Vietnam's human rights record as "poor." Freedom of speech, press, and assembly are restricted in Vietnam. Citizens are denied the right to change their government. Some Montagnards in the Central Highlands were reportedly killed while taking part in demonstrations in April 2004. The U.S. is urging Vietnam to respect the rights of its citizens.
In his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush talked about the nature of freedom:
"Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling."
"Our goal instead," said Mr. Bush, "is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.