Việt Nam rejects US' decision to place it on special watch list for religious freedom violations

December 15, 2022 - 17:26
“Việt Nam’s consistent policy is to respect and ensure human rights as well as the freedom of religion and belief,” Phạm Thu Hằng, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said
Deputy Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng. VNA/VNS Photo

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HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam on Thursday denounced the United States’ inclusion of the country in its special watch list for alleged engagement in and tolerance of religious freedom violations as a decision that is based on an “unobjective assessment” and incorrect information.

“Việt Nam’s consistent policy is to respect and ensure human rights as well as the freedom of religion and belief,” Phạm Thu Hằng, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during the regular press briefing.

“This freedom was established in the 2013 Constitution as well as relevant legal documents and has been ensured and respected in practice,” Hằng noted, adding that recently, Việt Nam has consistently improved the legal system as well as policies on religion and belief and Việt Nam’s efforts and achievements in ensuring freedom of religion and belief and has been widely acknowledged by the international community.

“The US’ placing of Việt Nam on a special watch list regarding religious freedom is based on the unobjective assessment as well as factually incorrect information regarding the situation of religious and belief freedom in Việt Nam,” the spokesperson stressed.

“Việt Nam stands ready to discuss with the US issues of mutual interest on the basis of openness, candidness and mutual respect, contributing to the strengthening of the comprehensive partnership between the two countries,” Hằng told reporters.

Combating human trafficking

A question was also raised over the issue of Vietnamese women being illegally trafficked to China and forced to marry Chinese men many years ago, with the recent cases of two women in Quảng Bình Province returning home and reuniting with their families.

“It is the consistent policy of the government of Việt Nam to promote legal, safe and orderly immigration and to remain resolute in fighting against illegal immigration smuggling and human trafficking,” Hằng said.

“In the past, Việt Nam has drastically promoted the prevention of and fight against human trafficking, and intensively implemented the Human Trafficking Prevention and Control programme for the 2021-25 period with a vision towards 2030. The programme has provided new solutions and tasks to help prevent human trafficking in all sectors,” the spokesperson said.

“We have also been working to implement the goals of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in accordance with a plan issued by the Vietnamese Government Prime Minister on March 28, 2020. This is to create a transparent immigration environment, protect the legal rights and interests of migrants, and prevent the risk of human trafficking in international immigration activities,” the spokesperson said.

Hằng also highlighted the fact that Việt Nam has also stepped up cooperation with other countries and organisations, including the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) to prevent, detect, investigate and handle illegal immigration in accordance with the law.

“We also stand ready to share and coordinate with all the countries to timely handle relevant incidents to ensure legal and safe immigration for the legitimate rights and interests of migrants,” she noted.

Right now, Vietnamese authorities are closely cooperating with Chinese counterparts in accordance with a bilateral agreement framework between the two countries on strengthening cooperation in the prevention and combat of human trafficking and other cooperation frameworks such as the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (known as COMMIT), according to the foreign ministry's spokesperson.

Following the direction of the Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnamese representative agencies in China will continue to actively coordinate with Chinese authorities and domestic agencies to further enhance the effective implementation of the agreement, and effectively provide timely repatriation, protection and support for people returning home from human trafficking, the spokesperson said.

Spratlys issue

The foreign ministry's deputy spokesperson was also asked about the satellite reports from the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies released on December 14, which showed Việt Nam has conducted a major expansion of dredging and landfill work at some of the outposts in Trường Sa (Spratlys).

Hằng neither specifically denied nor confirmed the information stated in the reports, but said that "all Việt Nam's activities in the Spratly Islands are in accordance with international laws." — VNS