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Department Seal House Resolution on Vietnam's Human Rights Abuses
H. Con. Res. 295

House of Representatives, U.S. Congress
Washington, DC, My 3, 2000

Relating to Continuing Human Rights Violations and Political Oppression in Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 295) relating to continuing human rights violations and political oppression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam 25 years after the fall of South Vietnam to Communist forces, as amended.

Whereas April 30, 2000, marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon to Communist forces of North Vietnam; Whereas 25 years after the Vietnam War ended, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party state ruled and controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party; Whereas the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues to violate the liberties and civil rights of its own citizens through arbitrary arrests, detentions without trial, and the censorship of peaceful expressions of political and religious beliefs; Whereas the Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 notes that the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam `continued to repress basic political and some religious freedoms and to commit numerous abuses'; Whereas the Socialist Republic of Vietnam still retains Article 4 in its Constitution that ensures the supremacy of the Vietnamese Communist Party as the only political party in the country while continuing to enforce an extra-legal administrative decree to detain or place under house arrest any dissidents or civilians for up to two years, without trial, under the pretext of `endangering national security';

Whereas the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is one of the most politically repressive and poorest countries in the world, with an average annual per capita income of $330;

Whereas, according to the Department of State and international human rights organizations, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues to restrict unregistered religious activities and persecutes citizens on the basis of their religious affiliation through arbitrary arrests and detention, harassment, physical abuse, censorship, and the denial of the rights of free association and religious worship;

Whereas the Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 on Vietnam estimates that `there are from 30 to 50 religious prisoners' but `the number is difficult to verify with any precision because of the secrecy surrounding the arrest, detention, and release process';

Whereas the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues to prevent human rights organizations from unfettered and open investigations of allegations of state-sponsored oppression of the right to worship by its citizens, and has prevented the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Abdelfattah Amor, from meeting with various religious leaders during his visit to Vietnam in October 1998;

Whereas the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam systematically violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in contravention of its status as a member of the United Nations;

Whereas the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam systematically violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in contravention of its status as a signatory to that agreement; and

Whereas it is in the interest of the United States to promote political, religious, and economic freedom throughout the world: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress--

(1) requests the President to restate and make clear to the leadership of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam that--

(A) the American people are firmly committed to political, religious, and economic freedom for the citizens of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; and

(B) the United States fully expects equal protection under law with all Vietnamese citizens, regardless of religious belief, political philosophy, or socio-political association;

(2) urges the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam--

(A) to cease violations of religious freedom as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998;

(B) to release all religious prisoners, political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience, and immediately cease the harassment, detention, physical abuse, and imprisonment of Vietnamese citizens who have exercised their legitimate rights to freedom of belief, expression, and association;

(C) to allow all Vietnamese citizens the right to free expression, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and religious worship; and

(D) to formally commit to a framework and a set timetable for open and fair elections that will facilitate the ability of Vietnamese citizens to peacefully choose their own local and national leaders, free from fear and intimidation; and

(3) commends the Vietnamese-American community for initiating a memorial to American and South Vietnamese soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom during the Vietnam War, which is under development and will be located in Westminster, California.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman).

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on House Concurrent Resolution 295, the measure under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?

There was no objection.

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

(Mr. GILMAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of House Concurrent Resolution 295, which was introduced by my distinguished colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher). And I would also like to thank the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), for his work in crafting the current language in this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, it is truly unfortunate that 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War the Socialist Republic Vietnam is still a one-party state ruled and controlled by the Vietnamese Communist party. Regrettably, the government in Hanoi continues to repress basic political and some religious freedoms, and to commit numerous human rights abuses.

This resolution rightfully requests the President to make clear to the government of Vietnam the firm commitment of the American people to fundamental human rights and equal treatment for all people of Vietnam still persist.

It further urges Vietnam to cease its violations of human rights and to undertake the long overdue liberalization of its antiquated political system.

And, finally, it appropriately commends the Vietnamese American community for a memorial to fallen American and South Vietnamese soldiers being developed in Westminster, California. In that regard, I call upon the Vietnamese government to do all it can to assist in bringing our POWs and MIAs home to American soil.

Mr. Speaker, democracy and human rights are not eastern or western values, as some might contend. They are universal values and the right of people everywhere, including the 77 million people of Vietnam. I want to praise this resolution for pointing out the injustice that tragically exists in Vietnam today. Communism is a dead idealogy. Somehow, and surprisingly, the government in Hanoi still has not received that news.

I sincerely hope that the bureaucrats in Hanoi are listening today and, as a result, will undertake the necessary reforms to release minds and spirits of the Vietnamese people. The people of Vietnam clearly deserve much better.

Once again I commend the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher) for introducing this resolution and his continuing commitment to human rights and democracy, and I also want to commend the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), for bringing it to the floor at this time. Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to strongly support this measure.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in strong support of this resolution.

At the outset, I would like to commend my friend, the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher), for crafting this resolution, which is so necessary to focus attention on the continuing violations of human rights in all forms in Vietnam.

I also want to commend the chairman of the Committee on International Relations, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman), and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, my good friend, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter) for their work on this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, Vietnam continues to be--25 years after the conclusion of that tragic war--one of the most repressive societies on the face of this planet. Similarly to China, Vietnam has opened up its economy to some extent, but its political system is as rigid, unbending, and repressive as it has ever been.

I call, therefore, on the government of Vietnam to release all religious and political prisoners, all prisoners of conscience; and to immediately cease the harassment, detention, physical abuse and imprisonment of Vietnamese citizens who are exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of belief, expression, and association.

I call on the government of Vietnam, Mr. Speaker, to abolish article four of the Vietnamese constitution and repeal all regulations and codes and decrees prohibiting citizens the rights to free expression, freedom of association, freedom of the press and religious worship.

I also think it is critical that we as a body call on the government of Vietnam to set an early timetable for open and fair elections that at long last will facilitate the inclusion of Vietnam in the community of civilized nations and allow its citizens to peacefully choose their own local and national leaders, free from fear and intimidation.

I think it is particularly significant, Mr. Speaker, that the government of Vietnam has prevented the United Nations special rapporteur on religious intolerance from meeting with the various religious leaders during his visit to Vietnam. Vietnam has an obligation, as a signatory of the appropriate treaties, to allow access by United Nations' officials to all religious practitioners.

We are indeed pleased that a quarter century has gone by since the conclusion of that tragic war, but we are appalled at the continued suppression of the Vietnamese people. I earnestly hope and trust that this move by the Congress of the United States, which I trust will be approved unanimously, will begin the process of opening up the political situation in that country. And I once again commend my friend from California (Mr. Rohrabacher).

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher), the sponsor of the measure.

Mr. ROHRABACHER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman), and the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), as well as the ranking member, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for being very cooperative on this measure.

This is one of those measures, Mr. Speaker, that goes through Congress that has bipartisan support because it reflects fundamental values which I believe that this body is supposed to be all about. This is a body that represents the greatest democracy in the world, and all of us who meet here share these values of democracy and freedom. And when we are talking about issues that go to the heart of our country, we stand united.

This resolution commemorates the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War and expresses a tribute to the Americans and South Vietnamese who gave their lives in the cause of freedom in that conflict. The international press reports from Vietnam this past weekend unanimously emphasized the ongoing repression that the people of Vietnam have had to suffer under the Communist regime in Hanoi.

The violation of human rights and the denial of democracy for the people of Vietnam has been just a horrific experience over these last 25 years and has caused a firsthand observer, Senator John McCain, to state that regardless of America's shortcomings in conducting that war, that the wrong side won.

Singapore's senior statesman and ASEAN founding member, Lee Kuan Yew, commented recently that the sacrifices by the Americans in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s gave the rest of the region, which also faced Communist-backed guerilla movements, time to stabilize and even prosper. So, yes, there were some good things that came out of Vietnam, yet the people of Vietnam still suffer.

And there was great sacrifice during that war: 58,000 Americans perished and more than 300,000 were wounded. In addition, 270,000 South Vietnamese military personnel perished, and over 570,000 were wounded. And that was before, of course, the final offensive by the Communist forces 25 years ago today.

This resolution honors their sacrifice and calls attention to the cause of freedom in Vietnam. This resolution is entirely in support of the people of Vietnam who deserve the right and the opportunity to participate in the democratic process of a free and Democratic society.

The greatest example of the potential of Vietnam is perhaps the tremendous educational and economic success of the Vietnamese American community, such as that in Little Saigon, which is in my district. And I am very proud to represent these freedom loving people who came here in such turmoil and have made a success of their lives despite great hardship.

In fact, the fact that they came here with little more than the shirts on their back and now live in relative prosperity and have made wonderful citizens for our country indicates just how important freedom and democracy is considering that the people that they left behind still languish in poverty and still are repressed and suffer great tyranny there in Vietnam.

This resolution expresses the hope that some day the people of South Vietnam will enjoy the same kind of freedom that the people who came here after the war enjoy. The resolution urges the Vietnamese regime to commit to a framework, a set timetable for open and free elections.

Twenty-five years after the end of the war, it is time for Vietnamese leaders to make peace with their own people and to permit their citizens to peacefully choose their own local and national leaders without fear of intimidation.

This resolution also, as the gentleman from New York (Chairman Gilman) stated, congratulates the Vietnamese-American community in Southern California and throughout the United States for initiating and funding through private donations the first memorial to honor both American and South Vietnamese military personnel who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War, which is now being developed in Orange County, California.

Finally, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bipartisan resolution which honors the sacrifice of American citizen soldiers who perished for the cause of freedom during the Indochina conflict by supporting the struggle for democracy in Vietnam.

And finally, I would like to salute a member of my staff, Mr. Al Santoli, who is standing behind me at this moment, who helped me put this resolution together. Al Santoli, a triple Purple Heart winner from the Vietnam War, has dedicated his life to the cause of freedom and justice not only in Southeast Asia but throughout the world; and we appreciate the effort that he put into this resolution, as well.

Mr. LANTOS: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, in the relatively short time that she has been with us, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez) has demonstrated extraordinary qualities of leadership in many fields but particularly in the field of defending human rights.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to yield 3 minutes to my friend and colleague, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez).

Ms. SANCHEZ: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from California for yielding me the time for this gracious ability to give me some time to speak a little about April 30, 1975, marking the beginning of a treacherous boat journey for many Vietnamese who sought refuge in an unknown land to them and an uncertain future. These individuals risked everything for a chance to live freely and to provide better opportunities for their children and their families.

I rise today as a proud cosponsor of the H. Con. Res. 295, legislation relating to continuing human rights violations and political oppression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam still 25 years later since the fall of Saigon.

I also rise to pay special tribute and to recognize the efforts of those servicemen and women who served as Vietnam War veterans and also to the Vietnamese who fought for freedom and democracy in Vietnam.

As my colleagues know, I represent the largest Vietnamese-American community in the Nation in Orange County, California. As a proud member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, it was my distinct honor just last month to hold a second hearing on the human rights conditions in Vietnam. We held one a couple years ago.

We received testimony from expert witnesses who tell us still freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of collective bargaining are still sorely missed in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Government continues to grossly violate human rights by incarcerating prisoners of conscience and placing dissidents under strict surveillance.

So as we continue to move forward with furthering relations between our two countries, it is my hope that we will address the current human rights issues in Vietnam: the violations, the religious persecution, the social injustice that many individuals still face in Vietnam.

Mr. Speaker, as we reflect on this tragic day, it is our duty as Members of Congress to honor the memories of the individuals that have fought for liberty and democracy in Vietnam.

Mr. GILMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

(Mr. BEREUTER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. BEREUTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for yielding me the time.

Mr. Speaker, as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I rise in strong support of H. Con. Res. 295.

This Member congratulates and thanks the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher) for bringing this matter to the body's attention and for recognizing that the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon was an important time to focus the American attention on what we were fighting for and to also recognize the contributions of so many men and women among our countrymen who made tremendous sacrifices in that war and I imagine with the hope that some impact might prevail in Vietnam, as well.

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