Text: H.R.1969 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (04/02/2009)


111th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 1969

To promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
April 2, 2009

Mr. Smith of New Jersey (for himself, Mr. Wolf, Ms. Zoe Lofgren of California, Mr. Cao, Ms. Loretta Sanchez of California, Mr. Royce, Mr. Rohrabacher, and Mr. Pence) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To promote freedom and democracy 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 2009”.

(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. Radio Free Asia transmissions to Vietnam.

Sec. 402. United States educational and cultural exchange programs with Vietnam.

Sec. 501. Refugee resettlement for nationals of Vietnam.

Sec. 601. Annual report.

SEC. 2. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) The relationship between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has grown substantially since the end of the trade embargo in 1994, with annual trade between the 2 countries reaching over $15,200,000,000 in 2008.

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

(3) The United States Congress agreed to Vietnam becoming an official member of the World Trade Organization in 2006, amidst assurances that the Government of Vietnam was steadily improving its human rights record and would continue to do so.

(4) Vietnam remains a one-party state, ruled and controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), which continues to deny the right of citizens to change their government.

(5) Although in recent years the National Assembly of Vietnam has played an increasingly active role as a forum for highlighting local concerns, corruption, and inefficiency, the National Assembly remains subject to the direction of the CPV and the CPV maintains control over the selection of candidates in national and local elections.

(6) The Government of Vietnam forbids public challenge to the legitimacy of the one-party state, restricts freedoms of opinion, the press, and association and tightly limits access to the Internet and telecommunication.

(7) Since Vietnam’s accession to the WTO on January 11, 2007, the Government of Vietnam arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned several individuals for their peaceful advocacy of democracy, including Father Nguyen Van Ly and human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan.

(8) The Government of Vietnam continues to detain, imprison, place under house arrest, convict, or otherwise restrict persons for the peaceful expression of dissenting political or religious views.

(9) 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.

(10) The Government of Vietnam continues to limit freedom of religion and restrict the operation of religious organizations.

(11) Despite reported progress in church openings and legal registrations of religious venues, the Government of Vietnam has halted most positive actions since the Department of State lifted the “country of particular concern” (CPC) designation for Vietnam in November 2006.

(12) Unregistered ethnic minority Protestant congregations suffer severe abuses because of actions by the Government of Vietnam, which have included forced renunciations of faith, arrest and harassment, the withholding of social programs provided for the general population, confiscation and destruction of property, and subjection to severe beatings.

(13) During a peaceful Catholic prayer vigil for the return of government confiscated church properties, protestors were dispersed after being harassed, some were detained, and some of the property was destroyed. Catholics continue to face some restrictions on selection of clergy, the establishment of seminaries and seminary candidates, and restrictions on individual cases of travel and church registration.

(14) The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) suffers persecutions as the Government of Vietnam continues to restrict contacts and movement of senior UBCV clergy for refusing to join the state sponsored Buddhist organizations, the Government restricts expression and assembly, and the Government continues to harass and threaten UBCV monks, nuns, and youth leaders.

(15) The Government of Vietnam continues to suppress the activities of other religious adherents, including Cao Dai and Hoa Hao who lack official recognition or have chosen not to affiliate with the state-sanctioned groups, including through the use of detention and imprisonment.

(16) During Easter weekend in April 2004, thousands of Montagnards gathered to protest their treatment by the Government of Vietnam, including the confiscation of tribal lands and ongoing restrictions on religious activities. Credible reports indicate that the protests were met with violent response as many demonstrators were arrested, injured, went into hiding, and that others were killed. Many of these Montagnards are still serving long sentences for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations in 2001 and 2004. Government officials continue to severely restrict Montagnard movement and prohibit them from seeking asylum in Cambodia.

(17) Ethnic minority Hmong in the Northwest Highlands of Vietnam also suffer restrictions, abuses, and persecution by the Government of Vietnam, and although the Government is now allowing some Hmong Protestants to organize and conduct religious activity, some government officials continue to deny or ignore additional applications for registration.

(18) On February 8, 2007, the Government of Vietnam arrested and defrocked several ethnic Khmer Buddhists in response to a peaceful religious protest. The Government continues to restrict Khmer Krom expression, assembly, association, and controls all religious organizations and prohibits most peaceful protests.

(19) The Government of Vietnam controls all print and electronic media, including access to the Internet, jams the signals of some foreign radio stations, including Radio Free Asia, and has detained and imprisoned individuals who have posted, published, sent, or otherwise distributed democracy-related materials.

(20) People arrested in Vietnam because of their political or religious affiliations and activities often are not accorded due legal process as they lack full access to lawyers of their choice, may experience closed trials, have often been detained for years without trial, and have been subjected to the use of torture to admit crimes they did not commit or to falsely denounce their own leaders.

(21) Vietnam continues to be a source country for the commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor of women and girls, for men and women legally entering into international labor contracts who subsequently face conditions of debt bondage or forced labor, and is a destination country for child trafficking and continues to have internal human trafficking.

(22) Although the Government of Vietnam is making progress in combating human trafficking, it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

(23) United States refugee resettlement programs, including the Humanitarian Resettlement (HR) Program, the Orderly Departure Program (ODP), Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR) Program, general resettlement of boat people from refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia, the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, and the Priority One Refugee resettlement category have helped rescue Vietnamese nationals who have suffered persecution on account of their associations with the United States as well as Vietnamese nationals who have been persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

(24) While previous programs have served their purposes well, a significant number of eligible refugees from Vietnam were unfairly denied or excluded, including Amerasians, in some cases by vindictive or corrupt Vietnamese officials who controlled access to the programs, and in others by United States personnel who imposed unduly restrictive interpretations of program criteria. In addition, the Government of Vietnam has denied passports to persons who the United States has found eligible for refugee admission.

(25) Congress has passed numerous resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Vietnam, indicating that although there has been an expansion of relations with the Government of Vietnam, it should not be construed as approval of the ongoing and serious violations of fundamental human rights in Vietnam.

(26) Enhancement of relations between the United States and Vietnam has proved an opportunity for a human rights dialogue and could lead to future progress on human rights issues in Vietnam.

SEC. 3. Purpose.

The purpose of this Act is to promote the development of freedom and democracy in Vietnam.

SEC. 101. Bilateral nonhumanitarian assistance.

(a) Assistance.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (b), the Federal Government may not provide nonhumanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam during any fiscal year in an amount that exceeds the amount of such assistance provided during fiscal year 2009 unless—

(A) the Federal Government provides assistance, in addition to the assistance authorized under section 301(b), 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 at levels commensurate with, or exceeding, any increases in nonhumanitarian assistance to Vietnam;

(B) with respect to the limitation for fiscal year 2010, the President determines and certifies to Congress, not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, that the requirements of subparagraphs (A) through (G) 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 601, that the requirements of subparagraphs (A) through (G) of paragraph (2) have been met during the 12-month period covered by the report.

(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The requirements of this paragraph are the following:

(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 freedom of religion, including the right to participate in religious activities and institutions without interference, harassment, or involvement of the Government, for all of Vietnam’s diverse religious communities; and

(ii) returning estates and properties confiscated from the churches and religious communities.

(C) The Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward respecting the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, including the release of independent journalists, bloggers, and democracy and labor activists.

(D) The Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward 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.

(E) The Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward allowing Vietnamese nationals free and open access to United States refugee programs.

(F) The Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress toward respecting the human rights of members of all ethnic and minority groups.

(G) Neither any official of the Government of Vietnam nor any agency or entity wholly or partly owned by the Government of Vietnam was complicit in a severe form of trafficking in persons, or the Government of Vietnam took all appropriate steps to end any such complicity and hold such official, agency, or entity fully accountable for its conduct.

(b) Exception.—

(1) CONTINUATION OF ASSISTANCE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST.—Notwithstanding the failure of the Government of Vietnam to meet the requirements of subsection (a)(2), the President may waive the application of subsection (a) for any fiscal year if the President determines that the provision to the Government of Vietnam of increased nonhumanitarian assistance would promote the purpose of this Act or 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) one or more programs, projects, or activities of such assistance.

(c) Definitions.—In this section:

(1) NONHUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE.—The term “nonhumanitarian assistance” means—

(A) any assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (including programs under title IV of chapter 2 of part I of that Act, relating to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation), other than—

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

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

(iii) assistance for refugees; and

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

(B) sales, or financing on any terms, under the Arms Export Control Act.

(2) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS.—The term “severe form of trafficking in persons” means any activity described 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)).

SEC. 201. Prohibition on Generalized System of Preferences.

(a) Prohibition.—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 meets the requirements described in subsection (b).

(b) Requirements.—The requirements described in this subsection are the following:

(1) The Government of Vietnam fully protects the freedom of association, in law and practice.

(2) The Government of Vietnam 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) Authorization of appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the President to carry out subsection (a) $2,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

SEC. 401. 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 are 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 under subsection (a) $12,5000,000 for the fiscal year 2010 and $2,500,000 for fiscal year 2011.

SEC. 402. 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 and democracy in Vietnam by providing opportunities to Vietnamese nationals from a wide range of occupations and perspectives to see freedom and democracy in action and, also, by ensuring that Vietnamese nationals who have already demonstrated a commitment to these 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 Orderly Departure Program (ODP), the Humanitarian Resettlement (HR) Program, the Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR) 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 activity.—Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State for Migration and Refugee Assistance for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012, such sums as may be necessary are authorized to be made available for the protection (including resettlement in appropriate cases) of Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, including Montagnards and ethnic Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

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 to the Congress a report on the following:

(1) The determination and certification of the President that the requirements of subparagraphs (A) through (G) of section 101(a)(2) have been met, if applicable.

(2) Steps taken to carry out section 101(a)(1)(A), if applicable.

(3) 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 401(a).

(4) Efforts to ensure that programs with Vietnam promote the policy set forth in section 402 and with section 105 of the Human Rights, Refugee, and Other Foreign Policy Provisions Act of 1996 regarding participation in programs of educational and cultural exchange.

(5) Steps taken to carry out the policy under section 501(a).

(6) Lists of persons believed to be imprisoned, detained, or placed under house arrest, tortured, or otherwise persecuted by the Government of Vietnam due to their pursuit of internationally recognized human rights. In compiling such lists, the Secretary shall exercise 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. In addition, the Secretary shall include a list of such persons and their families who may qualify for protections under United States refugee programs.

(7) A description of the development of the rule of law in Vietnam, including—

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

(B) 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 that are 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, as appropriate, seek out and maintain contacts with nongovernmental organizations and human rights advocates (including Vietnamese-Americans and human rights advocates in Vietnam), including receiving reports and updates from such organizations and evaluating such reports. The Secretary shall also seek to consult with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for appropriate sections of the report.