Mr. LANTOS. Madam Speaker, I am delighted to yield as much time as she might consume to my good friend and distinguished colleague, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. SANCHEZ).
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN) for her kind comments and strong support and advocacy for human rights in Vietnam.
This is an issue, especially with the trade bill pending later on this afternoon, where we have to make a strong, cogent statement on behalf of those who are persecuted. We must stand with the oppressed and not the oppressor. I know some people, and I think it is naive, but some people honestly believe if we just engage in trade, somehow that will mitigate, and some day end, these egregious abuses. The evidence would suggest otherwise.
Having said that, we have in this legislation some very significant milestones that we call upon the Government of Vietnam to achieve. Among these are the release of political and religious prisoners, an expansion of a provision of religious freedom which allows these Buddhist and Evangelical Christians, and so many others being repressed at this particular time, to engage freely in the exercise of their religion; and stop the repression of ethnic minorities, especially the Montagnards, who have
suffered a cruelty that many of us would find absolutely appalling.
Finally, on the issue of trafficking, Members may recall I was the prime sponsor last year of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Vietnam has a trafficking problem. There is some complicity on the part of the government.
This bill calls upon our own government to make a finding as to whether or not and to what extent the Government's complicity in trafficking is real or whether or not there has been progress in ending trafficking. Hopefully, for the sake of those who have been abused in modern slavery-like conditions, we will see an end to this abuse of women and children.
Madam Speaker, as we come to a close of the debate on this legislation, I want to especially thank my good friend and my former staff director on the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights which I used to chair, Grover Joseph Rees, who has done an extraordinary job in helping to shape this legislation. He has done great work getting the facts for all of us. We only deal with facts, no hyperbole, no exaggeration. What is the situation on the ground right now? What is the prognosis
for reform, and how do we get there?
I want to thank Peter Yeo on the Democratic staff of the Committee on International Relations who not only serves the gentleman from California (Mr. LANTOS) so well, but serves the entire committee so well, and I want to thank him for his contributions.
I want to thank Uyen Dinh, in the office of the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. TOM DAVIS) who weighed in and helped. Also thank to Tom Mooney, the staff director of the full International Relations Committee, for all the work that he and his staff did. This has been a true team effort. This is a bipartisan effort. The government of Vietnam should be very clear that we go on record today with the support of human rights organizations, the support of the American Legion, who submitted an effective
letter, which I will include as part of the RECORD, from Steve Robertson, the director of the National Legislative Commission of the American Legion.
I just want to say again how important this legislation is and, hopefully, it will pass with a vote as close to unanimous as humanly possible.
Those who vote against this are saying that human rights do not matter, because this has a waiver in it. This legislation has a provision that gives the President the ability to decide whether or not waiving a provision, a sanction, if you will, is in the national interest.
So I strongly support this legislation. It is a bipartisan product.
THE AMERICAN LEGION,
Washington, DC, July 24, 2001.
Hon. CHRISTOPHER SMITH,
House of Representatives,
DEAR REPRESENTATIVE SMITH: The American Legion thanks you for authoring H.R. 2368, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2001. The American Legion fully supports this important legislation which seeks to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam.
The American Legion opposes Normal Trade Relations (NTR) with Vietnam based on what we believe is less-than-full cooperation by the Vietnamese government in regard to the accounting of the over 1,900 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War. The current state of human rights in Vietnam requires as much, if not more, attention than normalized trade relations.
Currently, Vietnamese authorities are targeting many ethnic groups who were faithful allies of U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, and denying them their basic human rights. The Montagnards of the Central Highlands are just one example. We believe H.R. 2368 will help ensure compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Vietnamese government.
Although trade may be increasing between both countries, The American Legion does not believe this will, in any way, guarantee Vietnam's speedy transition to democracy. Continual pressure needs to be applied to the Vietnamese government to treat their citizens in a fair and equitable manner.
Once again, The American Legion fully supports H.R. 2368, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2001. The American Legion appreciates your continued leadership in addressing the issues that are important to veterans and their families.
Steve A. Robertson,
Director, National Legislative Commission.
Madam Speaker, I yield any remaining time to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. WOLF).