Vietnam rejects US rights report
HANOI - Vietnamese authorities rejected a US State Department report criticising the communist country for curbing human rights, saying no one had been arrested for their political or religious views.
In a statement released late Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung said the annual State Department report was not objective and based on "false and prejudiced information."
"During the past years, Vietnam has made great achievements in ensuring and developing its citizens' freedom in all fields, including freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of information, which can be clearly seen through the strong development of means of communication, especially the Internet," he said.
"Nobody in Vietnam has been arrested for reasons relating to political views or religion, and only those who violate laws are handled in accordance with law."
The report said last year's parliamentary elections were neither free nor fair, and that the government was continuing to crack down on dissent, arresting political activists and forcing several dissidents to flee the country.
It also said authorities tightened their grip over the press and Internet and limited people's rights to privacy and basic freedoms of speech, movement and assembly.
Le Dung said the report "still does not give objective observations on the real situation in Vietnam and is based on false and prejudiced information."
Christopher Hill, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, Wednesday credited Vietnam during a Senate committee hearing with making great strides in economic and social reforms.
But he cautioned there were "serious deficiencies" in political and civil freedoms, citing a crackdown late last year that netted prominent Vietnamese dissidents.
Agence France Presse - March 14, 2008.
US to keep pressing Vietnam on jailed activists
WASHINGTON - The United States will use human rights talks with Vietnam in May to press for the release of political prisoners, including a U.S. citizen jailed last year, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia said on Wednesday.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, who visited Hanoi this month, told a U.S. Senate hearing he had raised the jailings of Nguyen Quoc Quan of California and other democracy activists with Vietnamese authorities and would keep on pressing these and other cases.
"We will continue to push vigorously for a greater expansion of the civil and political rights of all Vietnamese citizens and for the release of all political prisoners," Hill said in a written statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Hill testified before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs a day after the State Department's annual report on human rights conditions around the world said the situation in Vietnam in 2007 "remained unsatisfactory."
"The government continued its crackdown on dissent, arresting a number of political activists and disrupting nascent opposition organizations, causing several political dissidents to flee the country," that report said.
Hill told the subcommittee that economic and social reforms had given Vietnamese more freedom than they had enjoyed since 1975, "but there is no question that serious deficiencies remain in political and civil liberties."
U.S. officials in May plan to conduct bilateral human rights talks in Hanoi -- the third since the countries normalized relations in 1995, 20 years after the end of the Vietnam War -- "without pulling any punches at all," Hill said.
Do Hoang Diem, head of the pro-democracy group Viet Tan, whose activists were arrested last November, told the panel that Communist Vietnam's nascent democracy movement was growing similar to those of Czechoslovakia and Poland decades earlier.
Describing last year's arrests the worst crackdown in 20 years, he said: "Scores of democracy leaders have been imprisoned; others put under house arrest or subjected to constant harassment by the police."
By Paul Eckert - Reuters - March 12, 2008.