Despite gestures in the direction of reform, Vietnam continues to restrict fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and religion. The Vietnamese government recently amended its criminal code to allow more rights for defendants, and is reviewing Detention Decree Thirty-One, which allows it to detain individuals without due process. Yet the Vietnamese government continues to jail people for their political and religious beliefs.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron told the U.S Congress that during a visit to Vietnam in February, his delegation presented Vietnamese officials with a list of twenty-one "prisoners of concern," including journalists and other activists convicted of "espionage" for drafting articles on human rights and leading grassroots organizations calling for peaceful political change.
Media freedom in Vietnam, said Mr. Lowenkron, remains "significantly limited," and the government continues to prohibit any reporting that questions the role of the Vietnamese Communist Party. While there are an estimated eight million Internet users in Vietnam, the government blocks access to Web sites it considers politically and morally "dangerous," including those of foreign news and human-rights organizations. Cyber-café owners must register their customers' personal information with the government.
Vietnam is one of only eight nations the United States has designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" because it severely restricts the religious freedoms of its citizens. Michael Cromartie, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, says the Vietnamese government continues to violate basic rights:
"Unfortunately, the hope of some that Vietnam's progress toward W-T-O membership would bring about legal reform, transparency, and improvements in human rights has not been fulfilled. There has not been a direct correlation between economic and individual freedoms."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron says the United States will continue to press Vietnam to respect basic human rights, and to release political and religious prisoners.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.