Record Deteriorating Despite Regular Dialogue With West: Experts
RFA | 02-19-2020
Vietnam’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate despite regular
dialogues between Hanoi and Western nations, a social analyst and a former
political prisoner said Wednesday, as representatives of the European Union and
the one-party communist state sat down for talks on the latter’s rights record.
Independent researcher Ha Hoang Hop told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that while
Vietnam signed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 2007, its government
has failed to live up to its obligations, despite monitoring by the
“At that time, Vietnam’s government understood human rights in accordance with
global standards, meaning that they are based on the foundation of human
dignity,” he said.
“However, from 2007 onward, over the course of many years of evaluation by the
United Nations Human Rights Council and international organizations, Vietnam has
done little to improve its rights record.”
Tran Vu Anh Binh, a former prisoner of conscience who served nearly six years in
jail for singing politically sensitive songs before being released in 2017, told
RFA that talks between Vietnam’s government and those of other nations are
insufficient to change his country’s approach to its rights record.
“There will be no human rights for Vietnam if democratic countries only talk
about human rights here,” he said.
“The Communist government is always deceitful, and cruel to its people. The idea
that human rights exist in Vietnam is based on untruths.”
Hop and Binh’s comments came as the 9th European Union-Vietnam Human Rights
Dialogue was held Wednesday in Hanoi and days after the EU ratified the
EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), prompting New York-based Human Rights
Watch to say the European Parliament had missed an important opportunity to
secure “enforceable commitments” for reforms in Vietnam.
The EVFTA will eliminate 99 percent of tariffs on goods between the EU and the
Southeast Asian country, although some will be reduced over a 10-year period and
others will be limited by quotas.
The vote to approve the agreement was made over the objections of international
and Vietnamese NGOs who had urged lawmakers to postpone consent on the
agreement, signed in June 2019, until Vietnam’s government agrees to protect the
rights of workers and ensure human rights.
The EU is Vietnam’s second-largest export market after the U.S., mostly for
garment and footwear products, sending the EU U.S. $42.5 billion worth of goods
and services and importing $13.8 billion worth of goods and services in 2018.
Lack of progress
On Monday, HRW Asia Advocacy director John Sifton noted that “numerous rounds of
EU-Vietnam human rights dialogues [have] failed to persuade the country to
reverse its abusive trend, even as separate negotiations for economic agreements
have ended with lucrative deals,” and called for the bloc to use its economic
leverage to force Hanoi to reform.
Following last year’s EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue held on March 4, Maya
Kocijancic, the spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU,
told RFA that Vietnamese human rights activists had been tortured and sentenced
because they exercised their right to freedom of speech.
“We spoke about these issues. We also urged Vietnam to release all of its
political prisoners and asked to meet those victims’ lawyers, adding that
authorities should allow the prisoners’ relatives to visit them,” she said at
However, on Monday, Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
and its member group the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said that
since last year’s dialogue, authorities in Vietnam continued to harass, assault,
and detain labor, land, and human rights activists, with bloggers, religious
followers, and government critics also targeted for repression.
And from March 5, 2019 to Feb. 5 of this year, authorities arrested 29 human
rights activists and sentenced 42 to prison terms of up to 12 years, the rights
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.