The Director of the Freedom House Center for Religious Freedom will testify today before the House International Relations Committee (HIRC) Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations at a hearing on human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.
The hearing is being held on the day that Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai arrives in Washington for meetings with President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials. Prime Minister Khai’s visit comes 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War and 10 years after the normalization of U.S.-Vietnamese relations.
Nina Shea, who also serves as Vice Chairman for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), will testify that while trade and military ties have increased, significant problems in U.S.-Vietnamese relations remain, particularly in the area of human rights, including religious freedom, which will hinder the further growth of the relationship. According to the USCIRF, Vietnam’s economic openness has not led directly to political openness, and freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and religion continue to be significantly restricted.
Beginning in 2001, the USCIRF recommended that Vietnam be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, for severe violations of religious freedom. In September 2004, the State Department designated Vietnam a CPC. Last month, the State Department announced it had reached an “agreement” with Vietnam to avoid more stringent actions, which can include economic sanctions, required for countries designated as CPCs. However, as the Commission noted when the agreement was announced, the actions taken by Vietnam signal only promises of improvement and not actual measurable progress in addressing the problems that resulted in Vietnam’s CPC designation.
In her testimony, Shea will outline the religious freedom concerns that remain, troubling new developments, and recommendations for U.S. policy to address these issues.