MIL-OSI USA: Steel Calls for Accountability for Religious Freedom Violations in Vietnam

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Michelle Steel (CA-48)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With increasing religious persecution by the Communist Party of Vietnam, Rep. Michelle Steel (CA-45) is again calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern. The designation is reserved for nations with severe violations of religious freedom covered by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and could lead to economic sanctions.

Rep. Steel originally urged Secretary Blinken to classify Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern in March, and is re-upping her request in light of the recent disappearance of Buddhist leader Thich Minh Tue. Thich Minh Tue went missing after leading a monthslong pilgrimage in which Vietnam’s Communist authorities arrested his fellow travelers during a nighttime raid. Thich Minh Tue, whose whereabouts are unknown, is not a member of the official, state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS).

“The Communist Party of Vietnam is mirroring the oppressive tactics of Communist China with its chilling crackdown on religious expression,” said Rep. Michelle Steel, who represents the largest population of Vietnamese anywhere outside Vietnam. “The treatment of Thich Minh Tue and his fellow pilgrimage travelers is indefensible and wrong. America has a moral obligation to stand up for religious freedoms worldwide, and Secretary Blinken should put the full power of the State Department behind fighting religious persecution in Vietnam and ensuring the safety of Thich Minh Tue.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has consistently recommended Vietnam to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern. Other Countries of Particular Concern include China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Vietnamese officials arbitrarily detain individuals because of their religious beliefs, in addition to requiring religious communities to register their organizations and houses of worship with the government.

Steel’s letter to Secretary Blinken can be viewed here.
                                                                                                                                                      
Background

Rep. Steel represents parts of Los Angeles County and Orange County, including the Little Saigon community, which is the largest population of Vietnamese anywhere outside of Vietnam. During her tenure in Congress, Rep. Steel has consistently worked to support and honor the Vietnamese Community by:

  • Introducing a bipartisan resolution to condemn the Vietnamese government’s human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of peaceful protesters and assault on the freedom of expression and speech.
  • Authoring “Black April” resolutions each year (2024,2023,2022,2021) to commemorate the tragic Fall of Saigon, honor the lives lost, and stand with the Vietnamese community.
  • Condemning the LA Board of Supervisor’s designation of April 30th as “Jane Fonda Day,” disrespecting the decades long Vietnamese American tradition of Black April.
  • Introducing legislation to rename the U.S. Post Office in Westminster, CA as the “Little Saigon Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Post Office.”
  • Co-chairing the Congressional Vietnam Caucus and the Victims of Communism Caucus.
  • Meeting with families of journalists and prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.
  • Urging Administration officials, including President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Blinken, and Ambassador Mark Knapper to get tough on Vietnamese officials for violating human rights.
  • Introducing the bipartisan Honor Our Commitment Act, to prevent the deportation of Vietnamese refugees.
  • Calling attention to, and urging restoration of, the distressing conditions of a sacred cemetery for South Vietnamese soldiers.

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