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Fifteen years ago, the
United States Congress designated May 11 as Vietnam Human Rights Day to
highlight U.S. support for protecting and promoting basic freedoms in Vietnam.
A ceremony and discussion forum was held today to mark the occasion at the U.S.
Capitol, involving members of Congress, labor leaders, non-governmental groups
and representatives from Vietnamese communities across America.
The date marks one of the most prominent episodes in domestic advocacy of human
rights in Vietnam. On May 11, 1990, Vietnamese physician, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que,
and other activists published a Manifesto for the Non-Violent Movement for
Human Rights in Vietnam. The Manifesto called for peaceful advocacy against
repression and called on the government to respect basic human rights, accept a
multi-party political system and allow free and fair national elections. Dr.
Que and his fellow advocates were arrested and convicted of crimes against the
state. Que has been under house arrest since 2005.
The United States and Vietnam have made great strides in normalizing relations
and expanding trade, and economic growth has brought great improvement to the
daily lives of many Vietnamese. But the Hanoi government's record on human
rights still gives pause. While there has been some progress on expanding
religious freedom, the government continues to place severe restrictions on
freedom of speech and the press and does not tolerate criticism of the
government and the Communist Party. For the U.S. Government, differences over
human rights are the prime difficulty in an otherwise flourishing relationship
with Vietnam. U.S. officials routinely make the point that America supports a
strong Vietnam, and that if the government in Hanoi gives a greater say to its
people, it will only make the country stronger.