CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1410, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on April 4, 2011, by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which held a mark up and reported the bill by unanimous consent, on March 7, 2012.
H.R. 1410 would impose certain limitations on foreign assistance to Vietnam and require the Secretary of State to report annually to the Congress regarding aspects of United States policy toward Vietnam.
The bill would limit non-humanitarian assistance to amounts provided in 2011 unless the federal government met two requirements. First, it would need to match or exceed any increase in non-humanitarian assistance with additional assistance to promote the rule of law, human rights, and certain exchange programs. And second, it would need to certify that the government of Vietnam has made progress towards promoting democracy and human rights. The bill would allow for the President to waive those requirements.
The bill would also state as matters of public diplomacy that it is United States policy to continue support for Radio Free Asia transmissions to Vietnam and to continue Education and Cultural Exchange programs with Vietnam. Lastly, the bill would express as policy of the United States that it will continue to offer refugee resettlement to nationals of Vietnam.
The bill’s sponsor released the following statement for a committee hearing related to the legislation: “The Vietnamese government continues to be an egregious violator of a broad array of human rights,” said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Despite the State Department’s decision in 2006 to remove Vietnam from the list of Countries of Particular Concern as designated pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act, Vietnam, in fact, continues to be among the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. According to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom’s 2011 Annual Report, “[t]he government of Vietnam continues to control religious communities, severely restrict and penalize independent religious practice, and brutally repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging its authority.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), enacting the bill would cost less than $500,000 a year, totaling about $1 million over the 2012-2017 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts.