• Mr. Speaker, Vietnam's religious persecution of its citizens is nothing new. I have spoken before about prisoners of conscience held in Vietnam ; in fact just this time last year, I spoke on the releaseof Pastor Duong Kim Khai.
  • Unfortunately, Vietnam is still carrying on with this egregious practice. I have been made aware of yet another example of human rights violations by a country the State Department has perpetually refused to include as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom.
  • On February 11, 2014, Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and approximately 20 other religious freedom activists were arrested by police officers in the Dong Thap province. Mr. Minh and the others were viciously beaten and had their personal belongings confiscated.
  • The activists were detained nearly 40 hours before some of the group was released. Mr. Minh and two other activists continued to remain detained and were not charged until approximately a week later on February 20th.
  • Mr. Minh was charged with ``disturbing public peace'' and while awaiting trial he was tortured and isolated from his family and lawyers. Mr. Minh withstood the brutal tactics and refused to sign any report against him.
  • His trial was ``open to the public,'' which in Vietnam means closed to the approximately 100 people who showed up to support him and the 15 of the 18 witnesses called by his defense.
  • Then on August 26, 2014, Mr. Minh was sentenced to serve 2.5 years in prison.
  • A few months later, the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam upheld the ruling from the preliminary trial, finding him and the other two activists, guilty of disturbing the public peace. This form of government sponsored religious persecution has no place in any nation.
  • In the Bill of Rights, freedom of religion is listed first because it is the most important. This was no mistake by our Founding Fathers.
  • Freedom of worship is a basic human right, and one that all countries should recognize.
  • I urge the State Department to do its job and recognize Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern.
  • And that's just the way it is.