"I'm glad to be with you today. I wish, however, that we were here under different circumstances.
"Sadly, Hanoi continues its relentless attack against religious freedom and human rights... just as it has been doing for decades. In the Foreign Affairs Committee- on which I am a member - we have had several hearings on Vietnamese human rights violations. The song has remained the same, as we continue to hear testimony about Hanoi's disregard for religious freedom, political dissent, and other basic human rights.
"Very recently, we received another stark reminder of how bad is. Human rights dissident Nguyen Quoc Quan was arrested by Vietnamese officials as he attempted to enter the country at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport. The charges he’s being held on? Terrorism.
"Mr. Nguyen didn’t come to Vietnam equipped with guns or explosives. He came to Vietnam to meet with other grassroots activists committed to peaceful discussions on democracy and human rights. To the Vietnamese Communist government, this is 'terrorism.' That says it all.
"Sadly, the case of Nguyen Quoc Quan isn’t an isolated one. His treatment is the rule, not the exception. Other peaceful dissidents are treated the same or worse. Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, a pastor of an outlawed Mennonite church, was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison during a one-day show trial for 'sowing division between the communist government and its citizens.'
"Sadly, this treatment is nothing new to Pastor Nguyen. To date, he has been aggressively interrogated over 300 times by Vietnamese police officers, has suffered dozens of brutal beatings, and has been forcefully removed from his local residence countless times.
"Others report that at least four attempts have been made on his life. A photograph of Pastor Nguyen’s bloodied and beaten face after one of his horrific beatings has been widespread. These images are rapidly becoming the picture of 'religious freedom' in Vietnam.
"Indeed, the treatment of Pastor Nguyen is just an example of how the Vietnamese government treats all of those who dare speak out. Beatings with electric batons and the use of severe force by government thugs is the norm.
"The beating of a man from the Catholic community of Con Dau village was so severe, it resulted in his death. These abuses occur despite the protections found in Vietnam’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite these horrific abuses, the Obama Administration still refuses to act, failing once again to list Vietnam as a 'Country of Particular Concern' for violations of religious freedom. This is inexcusable.
"In Congress, it is important that we continue speaking out against these outrageous abuses, just as we are doing today, but we can do more. That is why I introduced the Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act [H.R.156], which would impose sanctions on Vietnamese government officials who are complicit in human rights abuses committed against the people of Vietnam.
"This bill targets government agents, police officers, and others who commit human rights abuses against peaceful dissidents with travel restrictions and financial sanctions. With your help, we can pass this bill and the Vietnam Human Rights Act, and send a stronger message to Hanoi that its human rights abuses will have consequences.
"Again, I thank you all for your tireless efforts to bring about real change in Vietnam. To conclude, I would like to reassure you that I will continue to do all I can in Congress for the cause of Vietnamese freedom."