Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with other members of the Congressional Vietnam Caucus in calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to push the government of Vietnam to respect the rights of its own citizens by allowing for religious freedom, freedom of the press, and free speech and assembly.
The request comes in a letter to Secretary Tillerson written by Congressman Lowenthal, a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, and signed by caucus co-chairs Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19). Vietnam Caucus members Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46), and Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11) were also signatories.
In the letter, Congressman Lowenthal highlighted some of the challenges in Vietnam. These include human rights abuses such as numerous Vietnamese activists being held as prisoners of conscience by the Vietnamese government, from human rights lawyers to bloggers to religious leaders. Nguyen Cong Chinh, a Lutheran pastor, has faced inhumane conditions and torture in prison, while his wife and family have suffered similar violence and intimidation at the hands of security forces. Renowned human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai has been jailed since December 2015, which followed his brutal public beating by unknown attackers.
Another challenge highlighted in the letter is a massive environmental catastrophe in Vietnam caused by illegal dumping of toxic materials from a plant owned by the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a Taiwanese company operating in Vietnam. This disaster killed millions of fish and devastated local economies and livelihoods over a more than 125 stretch of coastline. The Vietnamese government’s slow response, initial refusal to investigate the matter, and crackdown on public protests regarding the event all harmed some of the poorest and most vulnerable Vietnamese.