Rep. Christopher Cox
U.S. House of
Calling on the Government of Socialist Republic
to Release Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly
May 11, 2004
Mr. Speaker, we are here on the floor to demand of the communist
government of Vietnam
that Father Ly immediately be released, unconditionally. Father Ly's only
offense is that he is a Catholic priest who sought to minister to the
spiritual needs of his countrymen and countrywomen in Vietnam. For
this offense, he has been in prison for the last 3 years, and the communist
government of Vietnam
expects that he will serve the full decade of his sentence.
This is, of course, an
affront to human rights. It is also an affront to the United States,
because it was the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that
solicited Father Ly's testimony. They asked that Father Ly testify in person.
He was willing to do so; but, of course, the communist government of Vietnam
forbade him from doing so. So Father Ly then submitted written testimony, and
it is on the basis of that written testimony that he was convicted. That is
why he is now in jail.
Never has there been a
clearer path from freedom to imprisonment than in this case. We can read the
entirety of his offense. What he said, in response to questions from the United States, is that there is not religious
freedom in Vietnam.
He said that the government of Vietnam had stripped all churches
of their independence and freedom. For speaking this truth, Father Ly is now
expected to spend a decade in a communist prison.
It was 1 month after he
wrote this testimony and sent it to the United States that he was
arrested. Indeed, he was arrested while he was saying mass. He was on the alter before a congregation. Six hundred policemen of
the Vietnamese communist government surrounded the church, stormed it, and
dragged him off. Of course, the Vietnamese Government provided him no legal
representation, no consultation whatsoever; and not surprisingly, on October
19 of that same year, Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly was sentenced to this
seemingly indefinite time in prison, 15 years originally. He has already
spent 3 years. Now he is going to get a 10-year sentence.
Father Ly is no
stranger to repression at the hands of the Vietnamese dictatorship. Since
1977, the government has repeatedly harassed him, repeatedly arrested him,
and repeatedly jailed him for his advocacy of religious freedom.
So the Congress today
calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Father Ly. But we also
recognize that he is not alone. He represents the struggle of all of those
citizens of Vietnam
who are fighting for freedom and for democracy.
Another piece of
legislation to address that struggle is the Vietnam Human Rights Act, H.R.
1587, which I hope the House will soon consider. This legislation will
prohibit nonhumanitarian assistance to the
government of Vietnam,
it will support the efforts of human rights and democracy advocates there,
and it will help us work to overcome the government's jamming of Radio Free
Asia and their Vietnamese broadcast. It will help resettle refugees and
require an annual State Department report on the progress towards freedom and
democracy in Vietnam,
or the lack of it.
This resolution that is
before us today, of which I am an initial cosponsor, is, therefore, a call to
action. It is a call, of course, upon the Vietnamese Government to act; but
it is also our call to action. The Vietnamese Government and other
dictatorships around the globe must come to realize that oppression does not
go unnoticed, that the Congress and the President will continue to fight for
those like Father Ly who seek meaningful change in their country.
Mr. Speaker, I am very,
very proud to join the gentleman from New Jersey
(Chairman Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) in supporting this
resolution, and I am very proud of the stands for human rights that this
Congress will soon take.
See the original in the Congressional
Record on Page H2764,
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