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Smith Calls on Vietnamese Government to Immediately Release Political Prisoners

ICC Note: ICC stands behind Chris Smith as he speaks the truth about Vietnam . We will be sending out a petition to put Vietnam back on the CPC list.

3/15/07 Vietnam (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — As Vietnamese Deputy

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem arrived in Washington ,

DC, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) held a press conference on Capitol Hill to demand that the Government of Vietnam immediately end their ongoing, unbridled human rights abuses and free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

“We are here today to tell the Vietnamese government that enough is

enough. It is time for human rights to flourish in Vietnam ,” Smith said at

the press conference where he was joined in his call by his colleagues

Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), as

well as prominent human rights activists. “Individuals targeted during the

recent wave of arrests in Vietnam only want to live in peace and enjoy

basic freedoms. The regime in Hanoi needs to stop playing games and start

respecting the basic human rights of their people.”

At the press conference, Smith announced that he is introducing a

resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to demand the immediate

release of Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and other

political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The resolution also calls

for the Government of Vietnam to comply with internationally recognized

standards for basic freedoms and human rights.

“I have been to Vietnam and met with Father Ly, Nguyen Van Dai and over

60 other dissidents. These are smart, talented and kind people-some of

Vietnam ‘s best and brightest. They harbor no malice toward the government.

They only want a better future for their country,” said Smith.

Last month, the parish house of Father Ly-a former prisoner of

conscience who spent over 13 years in prison-was raided. Father Ly was

moved to a remote location and placed under house arrest. Father Ly was one

of the founders of “Block 8406”-a democracy movement which started last

April-and his arrested coincided with the establishment of a new political

party he started, the Vietnam Progression Party.

Earlier this month, Vietnamese police arrested another member of “Block

8406″ and the principal spokesperson for the Vietnam Progression Party, Le

Thi Cong Nhan. On the same day — March 6, 2007 — Vietnamese police

arrested one of Vietnam ‘s few practicing human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van


Smith compared these political prisoners to Vaclav Havel, the author of

Charter 77 and key leader in the movement to bring peaceful democratic

reform to Czechoslovakia in the late 1980’s.

“These individuals are the Vaclav Havels of Vietnam . Their

incarcerations — under a bogus Soviet-era article — are meant to harass,

intimidate and keep them from bringing about peaceful change. Their arrests

cannot and should not stand,” Smith said.

Smith also noted that the removal of Vietnam ‘s Country of Particular

Concern (CPC) designation by the U.S. Commission on International Religious

Freedom (USCIRF) is not permanent. Vietnam ‘s CPC designation was removed

prior to the U.S. granting trade relations with Vietnam .

“USCIRF should consider reinstating Vietnam ‘s CPC designation in light

of the regime’s recent actions. Nothing precludes us from putting them back

on that list. We can and should put them back on tomorrow if the regime

does not take immediate action to improve human rights conditions in

Vietnam ,” said Smith.