On November 7, twenty members of the House Of Representatives sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to speak to Vietnamese leaders about human rights abuses during his trip to Asia.
The letter reads in part:
During your visit to Vietnam we urge you to impress upon the Communist Party leaders in Hanoi that continued expansion of economic and strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam will depend on real and concrete improvement in Vietnam's dismal human rights record. ...
Vietnam is an increasingly important trade partner, as our exports have increased nine fold over the last decade. ...
However, we are gravely concerned about the harassment, intimidation, assaults, and imprisonment of rights defenders, bloggers, and religious leaders. Basic rights in Vietnam, including freedom of religion, speech, press, and association, are severely circumscribed. Religious groups face systematic, ongoing, and egregious restrictions for seeking to organize independent of government control. ...
In your speech to the United Nations in September, you said that the "United States of America will stand with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well-being, including their prosperity." During your visit to Poland in July, you also stated "we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are."
The Vietnamese people do not have freedom and face harsh repression for standing up for human rights and decency. Your advocacy for individual rights and the rule of law will be warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people. ...
If history is a guide, your advocacy will also bring tangible results. The Vietnamese government has responded to concerns expressed by the last two administrations when human rights improvements were linked to better U.S.-Vietnam relations.
At the end of the letter, the Representatives asked Trump to "promote a free internet ... focus on religious freedom ... address the persistent problem of human trafficking ... emphasize legal reforms that will enhance freedom ... [and] seek releases of political and religious prisoners."
According to The Hill, while flying from Danang to Hanoi on Saturday, reporters asked Trump if he "felt the need to talk about human rights abuses in Vietnam." The president replied: "Well, I do." He then changed the subject to unrelated economic concerns regarding China.
Later that day, Trump offered his sentiments to a crowd that included Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, saying: "Vietnam has truly become one of the great miracles of the world, and it's very impressive, no matter where you come from, no matter who you are. If you look at what's happened in Vietnam, there is nothing more impressive. Thank you very much for this honor, and I look forward to seeing you, Mr. President, many, many times."
He also congratulated the "people of Vietnam" and President Tran Dai Quang on "an outstanding job."
On Saturday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smacked Trump for his public silence on human rights issues while in Vietnam:
According to Human Rights Watch, the situation in Vietnam is "dire in all areas" due to the Communist Party’s "monopoly on political power." The Vietnamese people suffer under numerous rights restrictions.
President Trump left Vietnam Saturday evening, and is expected to land in Manila, Philippines at approximately 5 a.m. local time.