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Friday, April 12, 2019, 09:37 (GMT+7)
The same old prejudiced way of thinking against human rights in Vietnam

As a yearly event, on March 13th 2019, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of State released “the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”. On March 14th, at the regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam (MoFA), the MoFA’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang stated: “In spite of the fact that they acknowledged Vietnam’s achievements in human rights, the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the U.S. Department of State included unbiased verdicts based on incorrect information related to reality in Vietnam”.

Just as the MoFA’s spokesperson, the reports on human rights by the U.S. Department of State made false allegations about human rights practices in Vietnam. This document gained the information from violators of Vietnam’s law as the evidence. For instance, according to the reports, the Vietnamese Government used the police as an instrument for ruling the country… human rights in Vietnam were violated… police and pain clothes authorities arrested the people arbitrarily; they arrested and illegally convicted those who claimed the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, information, and religion, while prohibiting the people from joining democratic movements or political organizations. It is clear to see that the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in general, on human rights practices in Vietnam in particular still express the old-fashioned political thought of the Cold War and the U.S. prejudice against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, being detrimental to the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and America.

The country reports on human rights practices were initiated by the U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Administration (1977-1981). During the Cold War, America and Western countries could not defeat socialist countries by force. Thus, Jimmy Carter had to change his strategy; America had to adopt another strategy - the “peaceful evolution” strategy. This strategy was aimed at using the “soft” weapon to make the socialist regime collapse on a global scale. To that end, during his term, Jimmy Carter decided to establish The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs under the Department of State tasked with making 3 types of reports annually, namely the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Report on International Religious Freedom, and the Trafficking in Persons Report. It was the first time America had adopted a new strategy which had used the issues on democracy and human rights against the socialist states and countries which went against the U.S. benefit.

When the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist countries carried out the national renewal (1985-1991), taking advantage of the “new political thought” and “reform aimed for more democracy and socialism”, America and Western countries used the democracy and human rights-based weapon with their viewpoints of “democracy-openness”, “political pluralism and multi-party system” to spread the values of America and the West over the socialist regime as well as support the political oppositional forces to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. As a result, the Soviet State and Eastern European socialist countries collapsed. Nowadays, many members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and people deeply regret the collapse of a regime which could have been renewed and developed with noble values.

Right after the release of the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by America, many countries around the world opposed it, saying that America was not eligible enough to make a judgement about other countries’ human rights practices, and that it should look at itself (its human rights practices) before criticizing others. According to many politicians and experts, America still employs the issue on human rights to intervene in other countries’ internal affairs.

In Vietnam, human rights are no strange thing. Since the inception of the Communist Party of Vietnam, human rights have become a consistent goal. The Party’s political platforms, from the 1930 Brief Political Platform to the 2011 Political Platform passed by the 11th National Party Congress, have all seen human rights as a goal. In our Constitutions, from the first one in 1946 to the 2013 one, human rights and rights of citizens have all been respected and ensured. In the 2013 Constitution, a chapter was intended for the human rights and citizenship rights and responsibilities. All civil, political, social, and cultural rights were guaranteed by the Constitution openly in accordance with the international conventions on human rights. On January 25th 2019, Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group (3rd cycle) approved Vietnam’s human rights record.

In our country, human rights have been legalized in the 2013 Constitution and many other laws. Regarding communications, our National Assembly amended and passed many legal documents, such as the amended Press Law (2016), the Law on Access to Information (2013), the Law on Cyber Security (2018), while the Government issued the Decree on the management, provision, and use of Internet services and cyber information (2018). Those legal documents are aimed at ensuring the rights of those who use information and social networks, stipulating the responsibilities of relevant competent offices, and preventing those who take advantage of cyber space to violate the national security, social order and safety, and rights and benefit of other people. It is not true to say that the Cyber Security Law invents some pretext for defaming some people or smashing human rights and the right to freedom of expression. Sanctions set by this law are imposed only for those who commit crime (Article 8); this law enables competent offices to conduct investigations into the owners of sources of evil information only when necessary. However, as for those who have been plotting to take advantage of the Internet and social network against our Party and State as well as the rights and benefit of citizens, the Cyber Security Law represents a strict sanction.

With regard to the exercise of the rights to freedom of speech and press in Vietnam, the Internet and social networks have quickly developed; any one could become a cyber citizen. People could easily assess information on the Internet (in both Vietnamese and other languages). According to statistics, in our country, nearly 70% of the people use the Internet 7 hours per day. When holding major political events, Vietnam provides the free wireless Internet. It is calculated that by the end of 2018, Vietnam had 58 million Facebook accounts, increasing by 5% in the first quarter of 2018 and 16% in comparison with 2017. Up to now, Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh city have been ranked seventh and sixth respectively in the places with the largest number of Facebook users. The hostile forces take advantage of this to disseminate information against our Party and socialist state. Annually, America issues the country reports on human rights practices and the report on international religious freedom, with criticism also aimed at Vietnam. Those documents, such as the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, are posted on the websites of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and then continuously disseminated by Western press agencies, i.e. BBC, RFA, VOA, and RFI.

Concerning the right to freedom of belief and religion, the 2016 The Law on Belief and Religion has been rated more open. For instance, under this Law, the rights to freedom of belief and religion are granted to both Vietnamese citizens and foreigners who are living in Vietnam. The Law also allows prisoners and detainees to use the Bible. Yearly, Vietnam has about 8,500 religious festivals. The United Nations Day of Vesak 2019 is scheduled to take place from May 12th -14th 2019 in Tam Chuc Buddhism Culture Centre (Ba Sao, Kim Bang, Ha Nam province). A part from 10,000 Vietnamese Buddhists and people, Vietnam will receive over 1,500 religious dignitaries and leaders, scholars, and experts from nearly 100 countries and territories. It will be the third time Vietnam hosts the Vesak Day (2008 and 2014 previously).

With reference to the economic, social, and cultural rights, according to the Government’s report, in 2018, Vietnam’s per capita income continued to increase; the rate of poor households decreased to 5.35% (down by 1.35% compared to 2017); 87.7% of the people possessed health insurance (up by 2.31% compared with 2017); in the 2018-2019 school year, there have been over 23.5 million students across the country, increasing by over 1 million students compared with the previous school year.

Up to now, Vietnam has sufficiently joined and incorporated basic international conventions on human rights into the national legal system, namely “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” (1981), “Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (1982), International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1982), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), UN Convention against Torture and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015). In fact, while Vietnam has signed many international conventions on human rights, many developed countries have yet to sign or ratify those conventions.

Needless to say, the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices have been detrimental to the relations between Vietnam and America. Today, the two sides have put aside the differences to transform the relations into comprehensive partnership. To some extent, all differences, including those in political regime and ideology and even human rights, could be solved via open dialogues by the two sides. That said, the U.S. State Department’s dissemination of the Reports on the Internet is not appropriate to the political culture and the relations between the two sides. It was not an accidental event that US President Donald Trump picked Hanoi Capital City as the venue for the 2nd U.S.-North Korea Summit on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That proved how well the human rights were exercised and respected by the Vietnamese State. In spite of arriving at Hanoi for 2 days only, heads of the states of the United States and North Korea were warmly welcomed by Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong. Security was perfectly maintained for the Meeting. Technically, at the international media centre, wireless and wired networks were set up for press agencies while the quality of mobile connection was improved so that the people across the country could watch the event online.

Culturally, at the event, all sides were content with the reception of leaders of the Communist Party and State of Vietnam. They were surprised by Vietnam’s landscape and people’s friendliness, generosity and pride in their country, social regime, and state.

To conclude, Vietnam’s 70-year-long revolutionary history, its Constitution and system of policies and laws as well as the Vietnamese people’s real life completely refutes all judgements in the 2018 Reports by America about our country’s human rights practices.

Bac Ha

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