WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Chris Smith,
Vice Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, has
been joined by 30 bipartisan colleagues in reintroducing the Vietnam
Human Rights Act today.
Smith’s legislation will prohibit the
U.S. from providing any non-humanitarian aid to Vietnam until Hanoi
makes significant progress toward releasing political and religious
prisoners and respecting the human rights of ethnic minorities.
The bill also authorizes funding to overcome
Vietnam’s jamming of Radio Free Asia, establishes a commission to
monitor human rights, and expands outreach to Vietnamese refugees to
ensure they have access to resettlement programs.
“The Vietnam Human Rights Act will impose
significant penalties on the dictators in Hanoi for their ongoing and
egregious persecution of their own people,” Smith said today at a
press conference attended by bill cosponsors and human rights activists.
“What this bill is all about is standing with the oppressed rather
than the oppressor.”
“Vietnam is a government that consistently
employs a policy of harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and --
increasingly in the last three years -- imprisonment and other forms of
detention against those who peacefully express opposition to Hanoi’s
extreme policies against religion and freedom,” Smith said.
“This is a government that punishes not just individuals who oppose
it, but also often their family members.”
Smith introduced similar legislation during the
last Congress. That bill passed the House by a vote of 410-1 but
died in the Senate because Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts placed a
hold on the bill and prevented it from being brought to the floor for a
“I pledge to do everything in my power to
ensure that this bill passes not only the House but also the Senate and
reaches the President’s desk as well,” Smith said.
“Opponents of this measure often invoke the
phrase ‘Vietnam is a country, not a war.’ I agree that Vietnam
is a country, but as such we expect Vietnam to behave as a country that
protects the rights of its citizens.”