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Vietnam Human Rights

Today [May 11th] marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Manifesto of the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam. At ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress, labor leaders, representatives of the Vietnamese community, and activists are reaffirming their support for human rights in Vietnam.

On this date in 1990, a courageous Vietnamese physician, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, published a call for peaceful opposition to repression by Vietnam's Communist government. For this, Dr. Que was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. He was released in September 1998, on the condition that he leave Vietnam. This he refuses to do.

In March 2003, Dr. Que was detained again after criticizing the Vietnamese government's human rights abuses. In February of this year, the Vietnamese government released Dr. Que and several other prisoners of conscience, including Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, Huynh Van Ba, and Nguyen Dinh Huy. Since his release, Dr. Que has been at home where he is under surveillance by Vietnamese authorities. In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Dr. Que outlined a road map for the democratization of Vietnam:

"Number one, Vietnamese authorities must end the jamming of the broadcasting programs in Vietnamese of the V-O-A [Voice of America] and the R-F-A [Radio Free Asia] to let information flow freely into the country. Number two, Vietnam must have freedom of the press. Number three, the government has to release all political and religious prisoners and to allow the International Red Cross to monitor all prisons in Vietnam. Number four, Vietnam authorities must be in full compliance with provisions and principles of the U-N [United Nations] regarding religious freedom and they have to treat all religions equally."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the U.S. "will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression and freedom, and we will make it clear that ultimately success in our relations depends on the treatment of their own people." This applies to countries everywhere, including Vietnam. The United States is concerned about the exercise of religious freedom. On May 5, the U.S. Department of State announced that the U.S. and Vietnam had reached an agreement that commits Vietnam to make progress in advancing and protecting religious freedom.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.