Vietnam Human Rights Day to highlight our nation’s support for promoting and protecting basic, internationally-recognized freedoms.
Nineteen years ago, the United States Congress designated May 11 as Vietnam Human Rights Day to highlight our nation’s support for promoting and protecting basic, internationally-recognized freedoms in that Southeast Asian nation. To mark the occasion, a ceremony and discussion forum will be held at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., today, May 9, involving members of Congress, labor leaders, non-governmental groups and members of Vietnamese communities from across our country.
The date marks one of the most prominent episodes in human rights advocacy in Vietnam. It was on that day in 1990 that a Vietnamese physician, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, and other activists published a “Program for the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam.”
The statement urged peaceful advocacy against repression and called for the communist government there to respect basic human rights; accept a multi-party political system; and allow free and fair elections. The protest was a peaceful and largely symbolic one, but Dr. Que and his colleagues were arrested, tried and convicted of crimes against the state. Since 2005 the doctor has been under virtual house arrest.
Nor is he alone in suffering this kind of treatment. Every year the United States prepares a nation-by-nation review of human rights around the world to send a clear message that all governments have a responsibility to protect universal human rights. The recently released study on Vietnam found that severe government restrictions on citizens’ political rights, measures to limit citizens’ civil liberties and corruption in the judicial system and police continue to be significant problems there.
Since the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam in 1995, ties between our two nations have increased dramatically. We now have a broad-based bilateral relationship, ranging from increased cooperation on regional issues such as promoting maritime security, improving public health and providing disaster relief to expanding trade and investment ties. However, working towards improving human rights in Vietnam still remains an integral part of this relationship for the U.S.
U.S. officials routinely make the point that America supports a strong Vietnam. If Vietnam’s government gives a greater say to its people, it will make the country even stronger.