Harris Says She Raised Human Rights With Vietnam After Criticism
(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Kamala Harris says she raised human-rights concerns including the release of imprisoned dissidents in meetings with Vietnamese officials after facing criticism from activist groups.
“Those issues were raised and discussed, as was the issue of human rights, both with the leaders of the Vietnamese government as well as with civil society leaders because it is a real concern for the United States,” Harris said Thursday in a press briefing in Hanoi at the end of a trip that also brought her to Singapore. “We’re not going to shy away from difficult conversations.”
Still, when questioned Harris didn’t mention any specific commitments made by Vietnamese officials or explain how the country’s human-rights record differed from that of China, another Communist-run government that doesn’t tolerate dissent. Freedom House, a Washington-based group, rates Vietnam “Not Free” due to severe restrictions on freedom of expression, religious freedom and civil society.
Harris hailed U.S.-Vietnam ties during her trip, offering vaccines and Coast Guard assistance while signing a 99-year lease for the American Embassy in Hanoi. The U.S. has bolstered ties with Vietnam as both countries push back against Chinese aggression in the region, including over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, had earlier criticized Harris for not speaking out enough during the visit despite “Vietnam’s systematic harassment and abuse of any who disagree with the government.”
“What this says is the Biden Administration’s concern for rights is selective, and much more influenced by anti-China realpolitik than the White House wants to let on,” he said. “The losers in this scenario are the Vietnamese people who have their rights trampled with impunity.”
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