One day after the White House underscored President Trump’s strong commitment to human rights, his spokesman refused to say Wednesday whether or not Trump would raise specific violations of human rights with the prime minister of Vietnam.
“We will release a statement following their discussion,” press secretary Sean Spicer told Newsmax shortly before the arrival at the White House of the Vietnamese prime minister on Wednesday afternoon.
Vietnam, according to reports from several groups and the U.S. State Department, is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights.
The official White House statement following the meeting between Trump and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc did mention that “The two leaders recognized the importance of protecting and promoting human rights.”
In addition, Trump and the Vietnamese head of government “encouraged further cooperation to ensure that everyone, including members of vulnerable groups, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, and including persons with disabilities, fully enjoy their human rights.”
As good as that sounds, however, there were no details on whether Trump brought up Vietnam’s record on human rights.
According to the latest report from Human Rights Watch, “The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in 2016 maintained its control over all public affairs and punished those who challenged its monopoly on power.”
The same report went on to charge that “authorities restricted basic rights, including freedom of speech, opinion, association, and assembly. All religious groups had to register with the government and operate under surveillance.”
Bloggers, in particular, “faced daily police harassment and intimidation, and were subject to arbitrary house arrest, restricted movement, and physical assaults,” noted Human Rights Watch. “Many were detained for long periods without access to legal counsel or family visits. The number of bloggers and activists known to be convicted and sentenced to prison almost tripled from the previous year, from 7 to at least 19.”
The report went on to point out that “During the first nine months of 2016, at least 19 bloggers and activists were put on trial and convicted. Others continue to be held without trial, including rights campaigners Nguyen Van Dai, Tran Anh Kim, Le Thanh Tung, and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh.”
The latest (2015) State Department “Country Report” on Vietnam concluded that the Communist dictatorship in Hanoi “continued to suppress freedom of expression online, in print, and through public demonstrations.”
Other human rights abuse cited by the State Department include “arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life; police attacks and corporal punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention for political activities; continued police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and detention, including the use of lethal force and austere prison conditions; and denial of the right to a fair and expeditious trial.”
The day before, Spicer told me that “[Trump] believes in human rights. It's something that he’s worked for with several countries. It's one of the reasons that he’s reviewing the [Obama administration’s] Cuba policy.”
Spicer emphasized that “human rights is something that’s very strong to him. It's something that he’s discussed in private with several countries.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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