Particularly, the report says that there have still existed examples of human rights oppression in Vietnam. Furthermore, it irrationally accuses Vietnam of “systematically breaching” justice procedures, saying that local competent agencies restrain detainees from accessing lawyers and prevent their families from visiting them, and local courts judge cases unfairly while authorities seek to intervene in citizens’ privacy, their families and mail.

An art performance at Thanh Tam Parish on Christmas 2017. (Photo for illustration)

Those who do not understand much about Vietnam will be so shocked at Vietnam’s “human rights breaches” stated in the US Department of State’s reports.

But the reality in Vietnam shows the opposite. At a recent news briefing, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman Le Thu Hang announced: “These [the US Department of State’s abovementioned views on human rights practices in Vietnam] are subjective assessments and erroneous views on Vietnam’s situation.” She also stated, “Vietnam pursues a consistent policy to promote and ensure human rights in accordance with the International Conventions on Human Rights, of which Vietnam is a member. In fact, Vietnam’s efforts and achievements in promoting and ensuring human rights over the past time have been recognized and highly valued by the international community.”   

One should remember that the Vietnamese National Assembly ratified the 2013 Constitution on November 28, 2013, which reflects the will and aspirations of an absolute majority of the Vietnamese people as well as the nature of democracy of the State of Vietnam in the Doi Moi (renewal process). In comparison to the previous one, the 2013 Constitution’s provisions regarding the rights of citizens and organizations have been expanded and articulated more clearly.

Specifically, it states that citizens are equal before the law; are not discriminated against in politics, civil life, economy, culture and society; are not tortured, ill-treated, violently punished nor any other forms of physical and mental violation including offenses against human dignity; and have the right to privacy, the right of information access and the right to participate in the management of the State and society.

Over the past years, prisons in Vietnam have held thousands of classes to brief inmates on the country’s political and socio-economic situation as well as to provide them with legal knowledge, to eradicate literacy among inmates, and to establish occupational training centers to train inmates with skills and professions so that they can earn a living honestly when released.

The 2013 Constitution also defines that citizens have freedom of assembly, association and demonstration. In fact, the citizens’ right to set up and participate in associations is articulated in other laws and legal documents. There are thousands of associations that operate independently under the laws and represent various legitimate wills and interests and aspirations of people from all walks of life in Vietnam.

According to the Vietnam’s 2017 Human Rights White Paper, as of December 2014 there had been 52,500 associations in Vietnam, including 8,792 ones with specifically defined features.

The number of professional and social associations has increased rapidly, and they have played an increasingly important role in various fields serving as think-tanks, social supervisors and policy critics, in recent years.

Meanwhile, the use and access to the internet is freely available in Vietnam. The State of Vietnam encourages and creates favorable conditions for its people to access the internet with the aim of promoting socio-economic and cultural development, accelerating administrative reforms, improving the quality of life for people and improving people’s rights and freedoms. Statistics of the Vietnam Internet Association show that more than 50 million Vietnamese people or 54% of the population use the internet. The figure is higher than the world’s average number of 46.64%, and lists Vietnam as one of the top Asian countries and territories with the highest numbers of internet users.

The aforementioned “facts and figures” prove that the so-called “concern” mentioned by the US Department of State in the 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices about practices of rights and freedoms of speech, expression, association, travel and religion as well as censorship and restrictions of the press in Vietnam are groundless and untrue. 

On the other hand, it must be noted that the US Department of State has run against the fundamental principles of international law when it has authorized itself to judge and intervene in other countries’ situations of human rights and religion. More dangerously, they more often refer to hostile and reactionary forces’ distorted information about Vietnam’s situation when compiling the report.

While the US Department of State criticizes these so-called violations of human rights, international human rights observers reveal the fact that the number of racial discrimination cases has surged in the US, and the American people’s living standards have not improved over the past years. The US Administration was even accused of intervening in its citizens’ lives on the internet. The accusation was indeed acknowledged on May 4 by the Office of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Office’s report says that the US National Security Agency (NSA) collected data of 534 million phone-calls and phone messages of the US people in 2017, tripling the amount of 2016.

In the context when the Vietnam-US relationship is developing rapidly and positively in various fields, including politics, economics and diplomacy, such subjective and fallacious assessments of the US State Department of the human rights practices in Vietnam could obstruct the developing trend of these bilateral relations. 

What the two countries should do now is to increase dialogues in a frank, open manner and on the basis of mutual respect, in order to promote mutual understanding and narrow down any differences.

Such exchanges and dialogues will help Vietnam and the US promote bilateral relations and cooperation, meeting the aspirations and interests of the two peoples.

Written by Binh Nguyen

Translated by Thu Nguyen