Resolution cites increased religious persecution

Washington, Jan 6, 2009 - Today, the first day of the 111th Congress, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the U.S. government to re-designate Vietnam on the list of "Countries of Particular Concern" for gross violations of religious freedom. Representative Anh "Joseph" Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress, joined Royce in introducing the legislation.

Ed Royce and Joseph Cao
"This Resolution will put the House of Representatives on record - the status quo in Vietnam is unacceptable. If Vietnam wants to have a strong relationship with the U.S., it needs to honor its citizen's basic rights, including religious liberty," said Royce.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated countries that "engage in or tolerate particularly severe violations of religious freedom," as "Countries of Particular Concern." This annual designation puts the violations of specific countries on record, making it a significant diplomatic tool for advancing human rights.

"Most recently, the Vietnamese Catholic Church has felt the Communist government's oppression over disputed land. In addition, persecution of the Hoa Hao Buddhists and the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam continues," said Royce.

Due to Vietnam's egregious human rights violations, the State Department had previously listed it as one of these countries. In 2006, Vietnam was removed from the annual list.

"Some have seen positive steps in Vietnam, but frankly, I don't see it. Religious freedom remains under attack. The Communist government continues to harass and physically abuse worshipers who don't follow every last state sanctioned rule. Later this month we'll have a new Administration. I want it to recognize that religious freedom is under fire in Vietnam and that it needs to be put back on this list," Royce stated.

In 2008, China, Burma, and North Korea were among those listed as "Countries of Particular Concern."

Representatives Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Dan Burton (R-IN), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) joined Royce as original cosponsors.

Rep. Ed Royce is a senior member on the Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment Subcommittee. Additionally Royce serves on the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam and the Caucus on Human Rights.