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ICC Note: An important piece of legislation that could potentially greatly improve conditions for Christians living in Vietnam may be coming to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote today. H.R. 1897, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013, would require the U.S. to stop increasing non-humanitarian aid to Vietnam until “substantial” progress has been made by Vietnam on improving human rights standards. Numerous restrictions are placed on Christian worship services in Vietnam and ethnic Christians such as the Hmong still face regular persecution in the form of arrest, harassment, physical beatings, and in some severe cases, murder. 
7/31/2013 Vietnam (BRNow.org) – Human rights abuses in Vietnam are receiving attention from the U.S. House of Representatives, with a particular focus on the religious oppression of ethnic minority Christians and other groups.
H.R. 1897, the “Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013,” was added to the House schedule July 26, a day after a brief state visit to Washington by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.
President Barack Obama said at a press conference following the visit that the United States and Vietnam had agreed on policies related to defense, technology and climate research. He also said he and the Vietnamese president had “discussed the challenges that all of us face when it comes to issues of human rights.”

Human rights abuses in Vietnam have been a consistent topic of discussion between the two countries since the normalization of relations in 1995 under President Bill Clinton.
Religious freedom in particular became a focus of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) after forced recantations, imprisonments for preaching, the destruction and confiscation of churches and even the execution of ethnic minority Christians came to light in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008.
Vietnam continues to deny such allegations, but USCIRF said in a statement prior to the Vietnamese president’s visit that religious freedom has to be addressed for relations between the countries to improve.
According to USCIRF’s current annual report, the government of Vietnam has, despite pledges to the contrary, continued to “expand control over all religious activities, severely restrict independent religious practice, and repress individuals and religious groups it views as challenging its authority.”
The statement also said the Vietnamese government “uses a specialized religious police force and vague national security laws to suppress independent Buddhist, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai activities, and seeks to stop the growth of ethnic minority Protestantism and Catholicism via discrimination, violence and forced renunciations of their faith.
“The government also continues to harass, threaten, intimidate, detain, and sentence lawyers and disbar human rights defenders who have assisted religious communities or religious freedom advocates in cases against the state.”

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