Text: S.3678 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in Senate (10/01/2008)


110th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. 3678


To promote freedom, human rights, and the rule of law in Vietnam.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

October 1 (legislative day, September 17), 2008

Mrs. Boxer introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations


A BILL

To promote freedom, human rights, and the rule of law in Vietnam.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title; table of contents.

(a) Short title.—This Act may be cited as the “Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2008”.

(b) Table of contents.—The table of contents for this Act is as follows:


Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings.

Sec. 3. Purpose.

Sec. 101. Bilateral nonhumanitarian assistance.

Sec. 201. Prohibition on generalized system of preferences.

Sec. 301. Assistance.

Sec. 401. Sense of Congress on diplomacy with the Government of Vietnam.

Sec. 402. Radio Free Asia transmissions to Vietnam.

Sec. 403. United States educational and cultural exchange programs with Vietnam.

Sec. 501. Refugee resettlement for nationals of Vietnam.

Sec. 601. Annual report.

SEC. 2. Findings.

The Senate finds the following:

(1) The bilateral relationship between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has grown exponentially during the past 12 years, with more than $12,000,000,000 in trade between the United States and Vietnam in 2007.

(2) The Government of Vietnam’s transition toward greater economic freedom and trade has not been matched by comparable improvements in basic human rights for Vietnamese citizens, including freedom of expression, information, association, assembly, and religion.

(3) Despite assurances that Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization would be met with greater respect for human rights, the Government of Vietnam has continued to strictly regulate some religious practices and to imprison an undetermined number of individuals for their peaceful advocacy of political views or religious beliefs.

(4) Since Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization on January 11, 2007, the Communist Party of Vietnam has moved to suppress perceived challenges to its rule by arresting dozens of democracy and human rights activists, independent trade union leaders, underground publishers, journalists, bloggers, members of ethnic minorities, and unsanctioned religious groups.

(5) The Government of Vietnam has also failed to improve labor rights, continues to arrest and harass labor leaders, and restricts the right to organize independently.

(6) According to the 2008 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Vietnam’s overall human rights record remains very poor and in fact has deteriorated since [January 2007] . . . More than 30 legal and political reform advocates, free speech activists, labor unionists, and independent religious leaders and religious freedom advocates were arrested in 2007, placed under home detention or surveillance, threatened, intimidated, and/or harassed.”.

(7) The continued expansion of the relationship between the Government of Vietnam and the Government of the United States should be matched by significant improvement in human rights for Vietnamese citizens, particularly those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Vietnam is a signatory.

SEC. 3. Purpose.

The purpose of this Act is to promote the development of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law in Vietnam.

SEC. 101. Bilateral nonhumanitarian assistance.

(a) Assistance.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided under subsection (b), the Federal Government may not provide the Government of Vietnam with nonhumanitarian development, trade, economic, and security assistance during any fiscal year that exceeds the amount of such assistance provided during fiscal year 2008 unless—

(A) the Federal Government provides assistance, in addition to the assistance authorized under section 301(c), supporting the creation and facilitation of human rights training, civil society capacity building, noncommercial rule of law programming, and exchange programs between the Vietnamese National Assembly and the United States Congress (referred to in this section as “additional human rights programming”) at levels commensurate with, or exceeding, any increases in nonhumanitarian development, trade, economic, and security assistance programming to Vietnam;

(B) with respect to the limitation for fiscal year 2009, the President determines and certifies to Congress, not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, that the requirements under subparagraphs (A) through (F) of paragraph (2) have been met during the 12-month period ending on the date of the certification; and

(C) with respect to the limitation for subsequent fiscal years, the President determines and certifies to Congress, in the most recent annual report submitted pursuant to section 501, that the requirements under subparagraphs (A) through (F) of paragraph (2) have been met during the 12-month period covered by the report.

(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The requirements of this paragraph are met if—

(A) the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward releasing all political and religious prisoners from imprisonment, house arrest, and other forms of detention;

(B) the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward—

(i) respecting the right to the freedom of expression, assembly, and association, including the release of independent journalists, bloggers, democracy, and labor activists;

(ii) repealing or revising laws that criminalize peaceful dissent, independent media, unsanctioned religious activity, and nonviolent demonstrations and rallies, in accordance with international standards and treaties to which Vietnam is a party;

(iii) respecting the right to the freedom of religion, including the right to participate in religious activities and institutions without inference, harassment, or involvement of the Government, for all of Vietnam’s diverse religious communities, including the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Catholics, Protestants, Hoa Hao Buddhism, CaoDai, Khmer Buddhists, and other religious communities; and

(iv) returning estates and properties confiscated from Vietnam’s religious communities;

(C) the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward allowing Vietnamese nationals free and open access to United States refugee programs;

(D) the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward granting its citizens the right to travel outside Vietnam without significant restriction;

(E) the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward protecting the human rights, language, culture, land rights, and religion of all ethnic and minority groups; and

(F)(i) no official of the Government of Vietnam and no agency or entity wholly or partly owned by the Government of Vietnam was complicit in a severe form of trafficking in persons; or

(ii) the Government of Vietnam took all appropriate steps to end any such complicity and hold any official, agency, or entity responsible for such complicity fully accountable for such conduct.

(b) Exception.—

(1) CONTINUATION OF ASSISTANCE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST.—If the Government of Vietnam fails to meet the requirements under subsection (a)(2), the President may waive the application of subsection (a) for any fiscal year if the President determines that increased nonhumanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam—

(A) would promote the purposes of this Act; or

(B) is otherwise in the national interest of the United States.

(2) EXERCISE OF WAIVER AUTHORITY.—The President may exercise the authority under paragraph (1) with respect to—

(A) all United States nonhumanitarian assistance to Vietnam; or

(B) 1 or more programs, projects, or activities of such assistance.

(c) Definitions.—In this section:

(1) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS.—The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” has the meaning given the term in section 103(8) of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106–386 (114 Stat. 1470); 22 U.S.C. 7102(8)).

(2) UNITED STATES NONHUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE.—The term “United States nonhumanitarian assistance” means—

(A) any assistance authorized under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), including programs under title IV of chapter 2 of part I of such Act relating to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, except for—

(i) disaster relief assistance, including any assistance under chapter 9 of part I of such Act;

(ii) assistance which involves the provision of food (including monetization of food), health care, or medicine;

(iii) assistance for refugees; and

(iv) assistance to combat HIV/AIDS, including any assistance under section 104A of such Act; and

(B) sales, or financing on any terms, authorized under the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.).

SEC. 201. Prohibition on generalized system of preferences.

The President may not provide duty-free treatment for eligible articles from Vietnam under title V of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2461 et seq.) until the President determines and certifies to Congress that the Government of Vietnam—

(1) fully protects the freedom of association, in law and in practice; and

(2) does not engage in or condone serious violations of the rights of workers, including the detention, harassment, or arrest of labor activists or individuals who write, speak, or otherwise disseminate information relating to labor rights.

SEC. 301. Assistance.

(a) In general.—The President is authorized to provide assistance, through appropriate nongovernmental organizations and the Human Rights Defenders Fund, for the support of individuals and organizations to promote internationally recognized human rights in Vietnam.

(b) Limitation.—Financial assistance authorized under this section may only be provided to an individual, organization, or entity that officially opposes the use of violence and terrorism.

(c) Authorization of appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the President—

(1) $2,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2009 and 2010; and

(2) any additional amounts that may be needed to carry out the provisions described in section 101(a)(1)(A).

SEC. 401. Sense of Congress on diplomacy with the Government of Vietnam.

(a) In general.—It is the sense of Congress that in diplomatic discussions with the Government of Vietnam, including at the United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue and other strategic dialogues in which officials of the Department of State participates or initiates with representatives of the Government of Vietnam, that such officials shall seek substantial progress by the Government of Vietnam toward—

(1) releasing all those detained or restricted by the Government of Vietnam because of the expression of their views or the practice of their faith;

(2) fully respecting the right to freedom of religion and the right of all religious groups and adherents, including those choosing not to join or affiliate with government-organized oversight committees, to—

(A) legally operate without government restrictions; and

(B) participate in religious activities and institutions without interference by, or the involvement of, the Government of Vietnam;

(3) returning all estates and properties confiscated by the Government of Vietnam from churches and religious institutions in Vietnam;

(4) allowing Vietnamese nationals free and open access to United States refugee programs;

(5) respecting the human rights of members of all ethnic minority groups, including—

(A) language instruction;

(B) cultural preservation;

(C) religious freedom;

(D) land rights; and

(E) the freedom of assembly;

(6) respecting the freedom of association, including—

(A) protecting the rights of independent labor activists;

(B) removing prohibitions on workers forming or joining independent labor unions; and

(C) not engaging in or condoning serious violations of the rights of workers;

(7) respecting the freedom of expression, including—

(A) repealing or revising laws, decrees, and ordinances that limit such freedom;

(B) authorizing the publication of independent, privately-run newspapers and magazines;

(C) removing filtering, surveillance, and other restrictions on internet usage; and

(D) respecting the right to peaceful dissemination of opinions and views over the Internet;

(8) revising laws, ordinances, and decrees that contradict the standards of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including—

(A) protections for the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the freedom of religion; and

(B) the right to legal representation and a fair trial;

(9) repealing provisions in Vietnamese law that criminalize peaceful dissent, independent media, unsanctioned religious activity, and non-violent demonstrations and rallies, including—

(A) vague national security provisions in Vietnam’s Criminal Code, such as article 80 (spying), article 87 (undermining the unity policy), article 88 (anti-government propaganda), article 89 (disrupting security), article 245 (causing public disorder), and article 258 (abusing democratic rights to infringe upon national interests); and

(B) Ordinance 44, which authorizes the involuntary commitment of persons deemed to have violated national security laws to social protection centers, rehabilitation camps, or mental institutions without judicial process; and

(10) ensuring that the Government of Vietnam—

(A) hold government officials, agencies, and entities that violate the human rights of persons in Vietnam accountable under the law; and

(B) provide appropriate measures to investigate, discipline, and punish such officials, agencies, and entities.

(b) Consultation required.—The Secretary of State shall develop strategies for reaching the objectives described in subsection (a) through consultation with—

(1) Vietnamese-American groups;

(2) representatives from the Khmer, Montagnard, and Hmong communities;

(3) human rights organizations, including international human rights organizations; and

(4) the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

SEC. 402. Radio Free Asia transmissions to Vietnam.

(a) Policy of the United States.—It is the policy of the United States to take such measures as may be necessary to overcome the jamming of Radio Free Asia by the Government of Vietnam.

(b) Authorization of appropriations.—In addition to such amounts as are otherwise authorized to be appropriated for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, there are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the policy described in subsection (a)—

(1) $9,100,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

(2) $1,100,000 for fiscal year 2010.

SEC. 403. United States educational and cultural exchange programs with Vietnam.

It is the policy of the United States that programs of educational and cultural exchange with Vietnam should actively promote progress toward freedom in Vietnam by—

(1) providing opportunities to Vietnamese nationals from a wide range of occupations and perspectives to see freedom, human rights, and the rule of law in action; and

(2) ensuring that Vietnamese nationals who have already demonstrated a commitment to such values are included in such programs.

SEC. 501. Refugee resettlement for nationals of Vietnam.

(a) Policy of the United States.—It is the policy of the United States to offer refugee resettlement to nationals of Vietnam (including members of the Montagnard ethnic minority groups) who were eligible for the Humanitarian Resettlement Program, the Orderly Departure Program, Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Returnees Program, the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, or any other United States refugee program and who were deemed ineligible due to administrative error or who for reasons beyond the control of such individuals (including insufficient or contradictory information or the inability to pay bribes demanded by officials of the Government of Vietnam) were unable or failed to apply for such programs in compliance with deadlines imposed by the Department of State.

(b) Authorized activities.—Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State for Migration and Refugee Assistance for each of the fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011, such sums as may be necessary shall be made available for the protection (including resettlement, as appropriate) of Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, including Montagnards in Cambodia.

SEC. 601. Annual report.

(a) In general.—Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 12 months thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to Congress that contains—

(1) a description of the programs established to meet the additional human rights programming requirements described in section 101(a)(1);

(2)(A) the determination and certification of the President that the requirements of subparagraphs (A) through (E) of section 101(a)(2) have been met, if applicable; and

(B) the determination of the President under section 101(b)(1), if applicable;

(3) the steps taken to achieve the objectives described in section 401(a);

(4) a description of the efforts by the United States Government to secure transmission sites for Radio Free Asia in countries in close geographical proximity to Vietnam, in accordance with section 301(a);

(5) a description of the efforts to ensure that programs with Vietnam promote the policy described in section 302 of this Act and in section 105 of the Human Rights, Refugee, and Other Foreign Policy Provisions Act of 1996, regarding participation in programs of educational and cultural exchange;

(6) the steps taken to carry out the policy described in section 402(a);

(7) lists of persons believed to be imprisoned, detained, placed under house arrest, tortured, or otherwise persecuted by the Government of Vietnam due to their pursuit of internationally recognized human rights, which is compiled by the Secretary with appropriate discretion, including concerns regarding the safety and security of, and benefit to, the persons who may be included on the lists and their families;

(8) a list of the persons and their families described in paragraph (7) who may qualify for protections under United States refugee programs; and

(9) a description of the development of the rule of law in Vietnam, including—

(A) progress made toward the development of institutions of democratic governance in Vietnam;

(B) the processes by which statutes, regulations, rules, and other legal acts of the Government of Vietnam are developed and become binding within Vietnam;

(C) the extent to which statutes, regulations, rules, administrative and judicial decisions, and other legal acts of the Government of Vietnam are published and are made accessible to the public;

(D) the extent to which administrative and judicial decisions are supported by statements of reasons based upon written statutes, regulations, rules, and other legal acts of the Government of Vietnam;

(E) the extent to which individuals are treated equally under the laws of Vietnam without regard to citizenship, race, religion, political opinion, or current or former associations;

(F) the extent to which administrative and judicial decisions are independent of political pressure or governmental interference and are reviewed by entities of appellate jurisdiction; and

(G) the extent to which laws in Vietnam are written and administered in ways that are consistent with international human rights standards, including the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

(b) Contacts With Other Organizations.—In preparing the report under subsection (a), the Secretary shall—

(1) seek out and maintain contacts with nongovernmental organizations and human rights advocates (including Vietnamese-Americans and human rights advocates in Vietnam), as appropriate;

(2) receive reports and updates from such organizations and evaluate such reports; and

(3) seek to consult with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for appropriate sections of the report.


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