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Jailed American in Vietnam will soon stand trial, following Mike Pompeo’s visit

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo takes a walking tour of Hanoi with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink on July 8, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. (State Department/Released)
July 16, 2018

A U.S. citizen who was arrested in Vietnam after protesting the government will soon stand trial, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Vietnam.

While visiting the country, American William Nguyen decided to join a group of about 150 people protesting a proposed economic policy that would result in a special land lease being granted to Chinese-based companies.

As a proud Vietnamese-American, he felt it was “a civic duty… to support the Vietnamese people and their freedom of assembly,” Nguyen said.

Police responded to the illegal protest and arrested many of its participants, including Nguyen.

Since his arrest, Nguyen’s family has been pressuring the State Department to get involved to help him regain his freedom.

During a recent trip to Vietnam, Pompeo did bring up the case, but Nguyen’s family is frustrated that more hasn’t been done.

“They’re not really pushing the case. They’re almost avoiding talking about it, and being dismissive of my concerns or issues I’ve raised. That’s been really frustrating,” Victoria Nguyen, Will’s sister, said of the State Department.

In addition, the family feels that Pompeo should have been pushing for Nguyen’s immediate release.

“The issue was Secretary Pompeo didn’t push for his immediate release, but said let’s be diplomatic about this and get him released as soon as possible. State didn’t work hard enough to call for his immediate release. He was beaten and dragged… There hasn’t been any accountability,” Victoria Nguyen said.

Officials from the State Department recommend that U.S. citizens who plan on traveling to Vietnam refrain from participating in political and religious activities that are related to the country’s Communist Party.

The State Department has issued a warning on its travel website that “U.S. citizens have been detained for political activities (including criticizing the government or its domestic/foreign policies or advocating alternatives to Communist Party rule), possession of political material, and non-sanctioned religious activities (including proselytizing). Authorities have also detained U.S. citizens for posting messages on blogs or online chatrooms that are political or critical of the government.”

Analysts believe that the State Department is ignoring many of Vietnam’s human rights violations to maintain its relationship with the country.

There is a concern that Vietnam will continue to strengthen its ties with China while isolating itself from the U.S. if it doesn’t receive respect.

“It’s very clear that human rights have been put on a back burner. The State Department says it’s raising these issues, but they’re not prioritized – and they’re not taken seriously because the situation only gets worse,” said Francisco Bencosme, the Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International.