U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently underscored that human rights is integral to American foreign policy, noting that “Our values are our interests when it comes to human rights.” In support of this interest, Congress mandates the State Department report every year on the human rights situation in countries around the world. These reports underscore our commitment to freedom, democracy, and the human rights guaranteed to all individuals around the world, including in Vietnam.
While there has been some progress in recent years, there continue to be serious concerns about the human rights situation in Vietnam. The recently-released Human Rights Report for Vietnam highlights these continuing challenges.
Among these were the Vietnamese government’s continued restriction of citizens’ political rights and fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, and expression. While many millions of Vietnamese retain access to the internet and social media sites, the government continued to exercise various forms of control over internet access. There was a significant increase in 2016 in the number of convictions of activists for peacefully expressing their views.
There is also inadequate protection of citizens’ due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention. The State Department report highlighted problems of judicial independence and transparency, and detailed a number of instances over the past year where Vietnamese citizens were denied the right to a fair and expeditious trial. The Vietnamese government continued to constrain civil society in other ways as well, including by censoring the press and restricting the activities of NGOs.
It is important that the government of Vietnam strengthen protections for human rights, religious freedom, and the rule of law. Doing so will bolster Vietnam’s economy, help its people reach their full potential, and facilitate a deeper bilateral partnership with the United States.