Harris stresses human rights in Vietnam

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US Vice President Kamala Harris has stressed human rights concerns during a roundtable meeting with civil society leaders in Hanoi a day after yet another state critic was jailed on charges of subversion.

During the discussion, Harris spoke with advocates from Vietnamese social advocacy organisations that focus on issues related to disabilities, transgender rights and the environment.

"Transgender people deserve equal access to health care service. This is an issue we still face in the United States and it is an issue here in Vietnam," Harris said on Thursday.

She added that "women need to live free of gender-based violence" and that "people with disabilities need full accessibility."

Vietnam has long been criticised for its human rights record, particularly the silencing of criticism of the ruling Communist Party.

Yet during Harris' discussion references to freedom of political expression were noticeably absent.

On Wednesday, a court in south-central Phu Yen province sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for "engaging in activities to overthrow the people's administration."

Rights group Amnesty International said in a December 2020 report that they continue to chronicle arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of human rights defenders.

The report also documented a record number of prisoners of conscience, 40 per cent of whom are behind bars for their social media use.

Harris' visit, which began on Tuesday and ends on Thursday, marks the first time a US vice president has visited Vietnam since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

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