HANOI (Reuters) - The European parliament has chastised Vietnam over a government crackdown on activists in the Southeast Asian country and called on EU member states to condemn the campaign ahead of a major ruling Communist Party congress next week.
EU lawmakers voted 592 to 32 with 58 abstentions on Thursday in favour of a resolution calling for a tougher stance against the Vietnamese government and highlighting the link between human rights and the trade deal the bloc has with Vietnam.
In a media release, the European Parliament said lawmakers were “appalled by and condemn the intensifying crackdown on dissent and the increasing violations of human rights in Vietnam.”
“Respect for human rights constitutes a key foundation of the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the EU and is an essential element of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement,” it said.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry said that the European parliament resolution was not objective and that no-one in Vietnam had been arrested in violation of their human rights or right to free speech under the constitution.
The Communist Party of Vietnam is due to hold its 13th National Congress on Monday, a major political meeting to set out policy objectives for the next five years and select a new leadership.
Rights groups have accused the party of presiding over a crackdown on activists that has intensified under its current leadership.
A Reuters tally based on state media reports found 280 people were arrested for “anti-state” activities in the five years since the last congress in 2016: 260 were convicted, many being sentenced to more than 10 years in jail.
In the five years leading up to the 2016 congress, there were 68 arrests and 58 convictions.
The European parliament resolution, which is non-binding on member states, said the terms of the trade deal allowed for “appropriate action to be taken in the event of serious breaches of human rights”.
It also called on EU member states to “strongly voice their concerns regarding the worsening human rights situation in Vietnam” ahead of the congress.
Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Martin Petty
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