A leading rights group has appealed to world leaders to request Vietnam to respect human rights as they meet during an APEC summit. International leaders and trade partners attending the Nov. 6-11 summit in the central coastal city of Da Nang "should call on Vietnamese authorities to end the government's systematic persecution of peaceful critics," said Human Rights Watch (HRW)
. State-run Tuoitre
newspaper reported that 21 leaders from APEC member countries will attend the summit. HRW said participants should urge Vietnam
to "ensure the basic rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion for its citizens." "While doing photo-ops and trade deals with the leaders of Vietnam's one-party state, foreign officials in the country for APEC should not turn a blind eye to the over 100 political prisoners those very same leaders have put behind bars," said Brad Adams, Asia director. Thousands of Catholics raise banners and lit candles praying for justice of prisoners of conscience on Oct. 29 at Thai Ha church in Hanoi. (Photo courtesy of Nhathothaiha.net).
"Vietnam is playing the role of a friendly host to welcome international delegations, the authorities are intensifying their crackdown on anyone with the courage to speak up for human rights and democracy," said Adams. The group said Vietnam currently puts at least 105 peaceful critics in prison for criticizing the government, taking part in peaceful protests, joining unregistered religious groups and civil or political organizations that the Communist Party deems threats to its monopoly on power. "Neither a glittering APEC summit nor new trade deals can cover up the ugly reality that Vietnam still runs a police state that brooks no dissent
," Adams said. He urged international donors and trade partners to "press Vietnam for systemic change to a more democratic system that respects human rights and the rule of law."