This week CPVW lodged a Submission to an Inquiry by the Parliament, saying that the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue should focus on political prisoners, and on the very human rights that the Vietnamese regime wants to suppress. Also, the Parliament’s human rights committees should set out indicators of progress and require DFAT to regularly report on them. To ensure that Dialogues are no longer behind closed doors, MPs and NGOs should have the right to sit as observers and later criticise shortcomings. The Submission is summarised by the diagram below.

A key theme of the Submission is that the Dialogue should not proceed unless a strong political will exists to “walk the talk”. As an example, DFAT raises a list of political prisoners of concern, but has steadfastly refused to meet families of political prisoners, let alone seek to visit the prisoners themselves, for fear of “confronting” Hanoi. We believe that in that case not only talk is ineffective but harmful, because Hanoi knows that when it next jails political prisoners, Australia will talk softly and do nothing. We argue that if Australia is not prepared to confront and displease Hanoi, then Australia should stop the Dialogues. One cannot protect the rights intentionally suppressed by authoritarian regimes while avoiding displeasing them.

ILLUS CPVW Submission JSCFADT HR Dialogues 10August FINAL VERResponding to the Inquiry’s invitation for new ideas not restricted to talks such as HR Dialogues, our Submission suggested a number of actions:

–          Fund translations of online anti-censorship software into Vietnamese and Chinese, to help Vietnamese and Chinese circumvent firewalls and avoid snooping by online agents. CPVW is doing this with 1 software, called alkasir.

–          As part of trade pact negotiations (such as the current TPP – TransPacific Partnership, involving Vietnam and several other countries), require free access by Vietnamese netizens to all .au websites, including not just .com.au but also .gov.au and .org.au.

By late August we expect to make our Submission available for download, after approval by the Inquiry Committee.

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