Sunday, October 1, 2023

Exclusive: Vietnamese activists will seek refuge in the United States after the Biden administration’s agreement – US officials – Today

Two Vietnamese activists who the Biden administration says were unjustly detained by the country’s communist government will be transferred to the United States under a deal negotiated before the president’s recent visit to Hanoi, U.S. officials told Reuters. A human rights lawyer who campaigned to hold accountable those responsible for police abuses, a Catholic parishioner evicted from his home and his families who left Vietnam for the United States, one of those responsible said.

In the United States, families must apply for resettlement under the “Priority 1” refugee program. The activists were not imprisoned, but were prohibited from leaving Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government also agreed to release two imprisoned Vietnamese activists wanted by the United States ahead of Biden’s visit last week, a US official said, and signed a private agreement to advance religious freedom and non-governmental organization (NGO) operations. ) in the country, prison conditions and labor laws, one of the officials said.

The issues of the private deal, which Reuters has not independently reviewed, had not been previously reported. The agreements came as Vietnam agreed to grant Washington top diplomatic status, along with China and Russia, during a trip in which Joe Biden endorsed the country’s vision as a leader in the field of high technology.

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These agreements come as the Biden administration faces criticism for its diplomacy with Vietnam, India and Saudi Arabia, whose governments reject the political freedoms enjoyed by the West, and for its negotiations over a prisoner swap with Iran.

Among the Vietnamese prisoners was a lawyer specializing in religious issues, who was released in Germany, and another individual convicted of tax evasion within the framework of his NGO.

Officials would not identify the four people, citing diplomatic and security considerations, but the names of the two former prisoners are known. Lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen confirmed his release and his travel with his wife to Germany earlier this month. The release of independent journalist Mai Phan Loi was also confirmed earlier this month.

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The Vietnamese human rights community considers the situation serious.

Vietnam has at least 159 political prisoners and 22 others are in custody, Human Rights Watch said earlier this month. This year, 15 people were sentenced to long prison terms without a fair trial, the human rights organization said.

Vietnam is also developing new rules that would limit freedom of expression online, prohibiting social media users from posting news-related content without being registered as journalists, according to people familiar with the plans.

“It is outrageous that President Biden has chosen to strengthen diplomatic ties with Vietnam at a time when the one-party state is in the midst of a brutal crackdown on activism, dissent and civil society,” said Ben Swanton, co – director of Project 88, a defense organization focused on Vietnam.

Vietnam usually releases these prisoners before presidential visits. Biden administration officials insisted that exit visas were an additional step during final negotiations on the joint statement and travel logistics, according to one of the US officials.

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These people are “representatives of a much larger group that we believe should be free,” the US official said.

“While we would have liked to have been able to get many more people out before the President’s visit, we believe this increased partnership and strengthened relationships give us the means and processes we need to continue working on these issues with our Vietnamese friends.

U.S. officials said they hoped those talks would take place both in annual rights dialogues with the Vietnamese (which have sometimes been dismissed by some human rights activists and officials as a meaningless exchange of talking points) and in discussions ongoing between the Secretary of State of the United States. State Antony Blinken and his Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son.

Times of National
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