OP-ED: Poorly objective comments on human rights situation in Vietnam should be ended
It can be affirmed that in Vietnam, no one is discriminated against due to their religion or belief, and the activities of religious organizations are guaranteed in accordance with the law.
President To Lam (front, seventh from right), religious dignitaries, and officials pose for a photo at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi following their meeting on June 13__Photo: VNA

At a recent regular press conference by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ministry’s Spokesperson Pham Thu Hang underlined that although the US Department of State’s 2023 Report on International Religious Freedom recognizes some of the progress Vietnam has made in protecting and promoting the freedom of religion and belief, it still gives poorly objective comments based on unverified and inaccurate information about the reality in the country.

Responding to reporters’ questions on Vietnam’s reaction to the report, which included Vietnam on its special watch list, Hang stated that Vietnam is ready to work together with the US over matters of shared concern in the spirit of frankness, openness, and mutual respect in contentious issues, thereby contributing to the enhancement of the Vietnam - US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

It can be affirmed that in Vietnam, no one is discriminated against due to their religion or belief, and the activities of religious organizations are guaranteed in accordance with the law.

As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with a rich belief and religious life, Vietnam consistently pursues the policy of respecting and ensuring the right to the freedom of belief and religion, with no one discriminated on the grounds of religion and belief, and the operation of religious organizations ensured in line with legal regulations. Such rights are enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution 2013, the Law on Belief and Religion 2016, and other relevant legal documents, and are respected in reality.

At a cultural festival for youngsters from ethnic minority groups and religions in Da Nang__Photo: VNA

Vietnam’s achievements in ensuring human rights have been positively evaluated by the international community. At a dialogue on Vietnam’s National Report under the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) fourth cycle in May, many countries recognized and hailed Vietnam's policies, efforts, and achievements in ensuring human rights, including the rights to the freedom of religion and belief. They welcomed Vietnam's achievements in economic developing, ensuring social justice, improving education to raise public awareness of human rights, and promoting the rights of women, LGBT group, and ethnic minority communities.

At their working session with Vietnamese leaders last year, Pope Francis and the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin showed their impression at the positive growth, diversity and richness of the religious and belief life in Vietnam, including the Catholic Church. They agreed that the Catholic Church of Vietnam should continue showing strong performance in implementing the orientation of “accompanying with the nation”, and "good Catholics are good citizens", encouraging Catholic dignitaries and followers to continue making positive contributions to the growth of the country and the church.

In his article entitled “Derechos humanos en Vietnam: hechos, más que palabras" (Human rights in Vietnam: facts, more than words), Moises Perez Mok, head of the Prensa Latina news agency’s bureau in Hanoi highlighted Vietnam’s undeniable progress thanks to its consistent promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to the freedom of religion and belief, for all.

In Vietnam, the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, as well as the right to access information are guaranteed, he wrote, noting that after 26 years of connecting to the Internet, Vietnam has had a modern telecommunications technology system with a high level of popularity. As of September 2023, Vietnam had seen 78 million Internet users, an increase of 21 percent compared to the 2019 figure. The number of mobile broadband subscribers was 86.6 million, a rise of 38 percent. There are currently about 72,000 associations operating in Vietnam regularly, actively contributing to handling important economic and social issues of the country, he added.

The Prensa Latina veteran journalist clarified that Vietnam respects and guarantees the freedom of belief or religion, as well as of association, which are the rights established right at the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam) in 1945 and enshrined in the 2013 Constitution.

There are 43 organizations belonging to 16 religions in the country, with 26.7 million followers, nearly 60,000 dignitaries, and 30,000 places of worship, together with a large number of religious publications, Moises Perez Mok noted.

Meanwhile, in his article published on The Independent, Grigory Trofimchuk, a Russian international political analyst who has many years of research on Vietnam, underscored that one of the most challenging aspects of human rights is religious issues. He affirmed that the religious life is completely open to the people in Vietnam, elaborating that up to 95 percent of its population practice a belief or religion.

The country is home to 43 religious organizations belonging to 16 religions, with over 26.5 million followers, accounting for 27 percent of the population, more than 54,000 dignitaries, over 135,000 assistants, and nearly 30,000 places of worship, he noted. Many types of beliefs, and worship relic sites and objects have been recognized as world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the author said.

Trofimchuk highlighted the diversity of the media landscape in Vietnam, with one national news agency and 72 radio and television agencies, which, he said, proves the rights to freedom of speech, press and information in the country. The author also mentioned the right to life and the right to respect for human dignity and physical integrity in efforts to ensure human rights in Vietnam.

Another undeniable truth in Vietnam is the country’s active and proactive efforts in making numerous contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights in the region and the world. The clearest evidence for that is the high level of trust shown through a very high vote rate for Vietnam to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2023 - 2025 tenure, and the international community’s high evaluation and recognition of Vietnam’s various initiatives to ensure human rights, the rights of developing countries, and the rights of disadvantaged groups.

Vietnam has always affirmed the principle of dialogue, cooperation and respect of differences, while stressing that there is no single common model for all countries, and each country has its own development path depending on its characteristics and conditions.

It is believed that it is time for US authorities to stop making poorly objective and inaccurate statements with prejudice on the actual situation of human rights and belief freedom in Vietnam. Instead, they should discuss with Vietnam on issues of mutual concern in the spirit of openness, frankness and mutual respect to contribute to and promote the comprehensive strategic partnership for peace, cooperation and sustainable development between the two countries.- (VNA/VLLF)

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