Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley will visit Hanoi this week to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the governments of Australia and Vietnam.
Hurley should publicly and privately raise a number of serious human rights concerns with the Vietnamese leadership. It’s crucial that he discuss the plight of more than 160 people in prison for peacefully exercising their basic rights.
Hurley should urge the Vietnamese government to release all political prisoners. He should make a special appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of 73-year-old Australian citizen Chau Van Kham and prominent activists such as Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Tran Anh Kim, Le Thanh Tung, Hoang Duc Binh, Le Dinh Luong, Pham Doan Trang, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Can Thi Theu.
Hurley should also call on the government to end restrictions on the right to freedom of movement imposed on activists and human rights defenders. Last year, Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive report, “Locked Inside Our Home,” that details the myriad ways the Vietnamese authorities regularly violate this right.
The Vietnamese government also suppresses religious activities, violating the right to freedom of religion and belief for independent religious organizations that refuse to toe the government line. Hurley should call on the authorities to allow religious organizations to freely conduct their religious activities without interference.
Hurley’s trip could be a timely high-profile launch to the 18th Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in Hanoi in late April. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged the Australian government to use the dialogues to press for clear, concrete, and measurable benchmarks for progress in these areas, laying out consequences for bilateral relations should these violations go unaddressed.
However, it’s crucial that human rights issues be raised in all meetings with the Vietnamese government, not just at scheduled dialogues.