Human Rights Watch Urges EU to Adopt Practical Methods to Deal with Vietnam’s Human Rights Violations

Human Rights Watch Urges EU to Adopt Practical Methods to Deal with Vietnam’s Human Rights Violations

Key events:

  • Human Rights Watch: EU Should Adopt Practical Methods to Deal with Vietnam’s Rights Violations
  • 37 U.S. Congress Members Resist Reconsideration of Vietnam’s Non-Market Status
  • California Congressman Raises Alarm over Buddhist Monk Thich Minh Tue’s Disappearance

Human Rights Watch: EU Should Adopt Practical Methods to Deal with Vietnam’s Human Rights Violations

The New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch published a statement on July 3, calling on the European Union to reconsider its bilateral human rights dialogue with Vietnam and to adopt other practical methods in response to the Vietnamese government’s growing repression. The letter, submitted to the EU, was published a day before the next session of the EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue planned for July 4 in Brussels.

The letter notes that despite almost three decades of human rights discussions between the EU and Vietnam, little achievement regarding respect and protection for fundamental rights has been seen in the country, despite numerous issues raised by EU officials. More worryingly, Hanoi has ramped up its repressions in recent years, with over 160 people currently behind bars for exercising their freedom of expression. Environmental activists have also been targeted in this wave of repression despite the EU’s financial support for Vietnam’s renewable energy transition.

At the same time, the Vietnamese Communist Party maintains a monopoly over the media and deploys surveillance over the internet, making online criticisms of the government a criminal offense.

Vietnam is also the third largest jailer of journalists worldwide. One example is the recent arrest of prominent independent journalist Huy Duc, who was subsequently charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of others” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

Civil society leaders monitoring the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, including activists Mai Phan Loi and Dang Dinh Bach, were arrested on “tax evasion” charges. And despite a pledge to rectify ILO Convention 87 by 2030, the regime has detained labor unionists who advocate for labor rights.

Human Rights Watch proposed several measures the EU could take to ensure Vietnam respects its human rights commitments. These include reviewing Vietnam's compliance with its promises to protect civil liberties under bilateral agreements and trade deals, which present consequences for failure to comply.

The statement simultaneously calls on the EU to use sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights issues, including its high-ranking officials. It also urges EU member states to lead independent monitoring and reporting on Vietnam’s human rights situation.

37 U.S. Congress Members Resist Reconsideration of Vietnam’s Non-Market Status

A coalition of 37 U.S. Congress members, in a joint letter dated June 21, raised their concerns to the U.S. Department of Commerce on reconsidering Vietnam’s non-market economy status, adding that such a decision could harm  U.S. steel manufacturers and producers.

The letter notes that Vietnam is “a primary example of a top-down, government-controlled economy” whose steel industry receives considerable state subsidies. Therefore, the Congress members believe hastily recognizing Vietnam as a market economy could pose a significant threat to similar steel producers in the U.S. Currently, exports of various products from Vietnam, including steel, are subject to U.S. anti-dumping proceedings. 

Moreover, the lawmakers emphasize that Vietnam’s export-oriented economy has drawn other steel producers from countries like China to move their production there to evade tariffs from the U.S. government.

The letter refers to the statistics published by the OECD, which showed that Vietnam’s steel exports to the U.S. jumped from less than 40,000 metric tons in 2010 to over one million tons in 2018. They conclude that producers from Vietnam “were circumventing U.S. trade remedy orders on various steel products” and urge the Department of Commerce not to grant Hanoi a free market economy status given this unfair trade practice.

“We understand the Administration’s broader desire to work with allies and partners in addressing challenges posed by China’s increasingly assertive conduct in the region and around the world,” the lawmakers added. “But neither the U.S. anti-dumping laws nor the industries and workers that rely on them should be treated as bargaining chips in those efforts.” Moreover, the letter stated that any country that wants to be recognized as a free market economy must undergo a full and fair assessment under the six statutory factors in the Tariff Act of 1930.

California Congressman Raises Alarm over Buddhist Monk Thich Minh Tue’s Disappearance

California Congressman Tri Ta has raised his concerns over the disappearance of Buddhist monk Thich Minh Tue to the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper after the monk and his followers vanished following a police raid on June 12. The letter, dated July 1, writes that the Buddhist pilgrim, whose ascetic barefoot pilgrimage gained the admiration of many Vietnamese social media users, has disappeared for nearly 20 days, while the Vietnamese authorities gave no information regarding his whereabouts or health situation.

Thich Minh Tue, whose real name is Le Anh Tu, became an internet phenomenon in Vietnam after media influencers live-streamed and documented his walking journey on social media. Tue’s humble journey has drawn a striking contrast to the luxurious lives of the Buddhist monks affiliated with the state-controlled Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. The Vietnamese police adopted a wait-and-see approach until they disbanded his followers in early June 2024.

On July 1, Le Anh Thin, Tue’s brother, submitted a missing person report to the Ia Grai District Police Department in Gia Lai Province regarding his sibling’s disappearance. As of this writing, the authorities have not responded to Thin’s inquiry.

Congressman Tri Ta called on Ambassador Knapper to stand with him in defending religious freedom and human rights by pressuring Vietnam to “end the religious persecution of Thich Minh Tue” and release him immediately if the monk is in police custody. On June 4, Congressman Ta sent a similar letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding the worrying situation of Thich Minh Tue and freedom of religion in Vietnam.

Quick takes:

Vietnam Unveils New Grassroots Police Unit: Provinces across Vietnam on July 1 introduced the formation of a new police unit tasked with protecting security and order at the grassroots level. The Law on Grassroots Security Forces, passed by the National Assembly on Nov. 28, 2023, merged the three semi-specialized commune police, civil guards, and captains and vice captains of civil defense groups into a new police unit, dubbed the “eyes and ears of the state.” However, many Vietnamese lawmakers have opposed this law, saying it further increases the power of the public security ministry while straining the national budget.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Vietnamese Magazine.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.