WASHINGTON (Feb. 21, 2012) — Within two weeks, over sixty thousand Vietnamese-Americans with the support of human rights advocates from across the country have voiced their concern to President Obama, calling on the Administration to not expand trade with communist Vietnam at the expense of human rights.
The U.S. Trade Representative, which reports directly to the President, is considering Vietnam’s efforts to expand trade with the U.S. through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and gain preferential tariffs on goods exported to the U.S. through the Generalized System of Preferences.
The petition asks President Obama to not decouple trade from human rights and seek the immediate and unconditional release of all detained and imprisoned champions of human rights as part of the trade negotiation with communist Vietnam. A list of 600 such prisoners is being compiled for presentation to the White House.
“With this petition drive, we would like to demonstrate our community’s ability for self-mobilization around a common cause,” said Truc Ho, President of SBTN who officially launched the petition drive on Feb 8, 2012.
The online petition drive makes use of the White House’s “We The People” website. The petition must collect 25,000 endorsements within 30 days for the Administration to issue an official response. By the fourth day, the petition had already surpassed that threshold.
“Following the recent reforms in Burma, Vietnam has become the worst violator of human rights in Southeast Asia; the US and the world should shine the spotlight on its increasingly repressive regime,” Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Executive Director of BPSOS, explained.
SBTN, BPSOS and many Vietnamese-American community organizations have set up stations in multiple cities across the country to assist community members faced with difficulties using the internet. Hundreds of bilingual college students and young professionals have signed up to volunteer at these stations.
A delegation of some 200 Vietnamese-Americans is being formed with representatives from all 50 states to present a hard copy of the petition to the White House on March 5. On the following day twice that number will meet with members of Congress or their staff to support the Vietnam Human Rights Act.
All American citizens and residents who care about human rights are asked to lend a hand and sign the online petition. [A petitioner needs to first open an account at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions, then sign the petition at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petition/stop-expanding-trade-vietnam-expense-human-rights/53PQRDZH].
SBTN is the most popular Vietnamese-language television programming available on DIRECTV, with 400,000 viewers. For many Vietnamese-Americans with limited English proficiency, SBTN is their primary window to the world of information and news.
BPSOS is the largest Vietnamese-American non-profit with offices in eleven locations across the US. Through local partners, the organization also operates in Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. BPSOS’ network of bilingual mass media and social media reaches one in every four Vietnamese-American households.
“By joining forces, SBTN and BPSOS aim to politically empower the Vietnamese-American community overall and to engage Vietnamese-Americans in the public debate on domestic issues and our government’s Vietnam-related foreign policies,” Dr. Thang explained.