Congressmen Lowenthal and Correa Lead Letter Calling On Vietnamese Government To End Activist Crackdown, Release Prisoners of Conscience

May 15, 2018
Press Release

Congressional Caucus on Vietnam Co-Chair Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with Congressman Lou Correa (CA-46) and other Members of the Caucus in urging the Vietnamese government to end its recent crackdown on activists and journalists in Vietnam. The letter, addressed to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, also calls on the government in Hanoi to release human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and all prisoners of conscience currently in custody. 

In the letter, the Members wrote, "We write to express our deep concerns regarding the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists in Vietnam. Particularly, the severe sentences given to members of the Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD). In the span of a week, ten human rights defenders were sentenced to over one hundred years in prison and house arrest."

On April 5, 2018, activists Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Truong Minh Duc were each sentenced to between seven and fifteen years in prison for what the Vietnamese government vaguely called "carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the state."

On April 10, 2018, another BFD member, Nguyen Van Tuc, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and two days later Tran Thi Xuan was sentenced to nine years in prison along with Vu Van Hung, who received a one year prison sentence. On the same day, another political activist Nguyen Viet Dung (not affiliated with the BFD) was also sentenced to seven years in prison and five years of house arrest.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the U.S. State Department, and numerous human rights organization around the world have all called these sentences arbitrary and urged the Vietnamese government to release these activists.

The Members point out in the letter that Vietnam is a signatory of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The terms of this treaty commit the Vietnamese government to respecting individual freedom of belief, speech, association, press, and the right to uphold assembly and political expression.

However, the Members conclude, "the recent trials and continued criminalization of peaceful political activities clearly contradict Vietnam's own commitment to internationally accepted standards of human rights. We urge the Government of Vietnam to release the activists and bloggers mentioned above as well as all other prisoners of conscience in Vietnam."

Last month, the three co-chairs of the Congressional Vietnam Caucus (Congressman Lowenthal, Congressman Chris Smith, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren) led the introduction of the Vietnam Human Rights Act. This legislation would make it U.S. policy to assess and sanction Vietnamese officials and others complicit in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

To read the full text of the letter, please click here.