Vietnamese Activists Prevented From Meeting Obama

Vietnamese Activists Prevented From Meeting Obama

US President Barack Obama said several Vietnamese civil society members were prevented from meeting him on Tuesday and that, despite great strides made by the country, Washington had concerns about the limits it puts on political freedom.
Obama was due to lay out more of his plan for stronger ties with Vietnam on the second day of his visit, after scrapping an arms ban, the last big hurdle between two countries drawn together by concern over China’s military buildup, Reuters reported.
The removal of the arms embargo, a vestige of the Vietnam War, suggests US worries about Beijing’s building of manmade island in the South China Sea and deployment of advanced radars and missile batteries in the disputed region trumped concern about Vietnam’s human rights record.
Washington had for years said a lifting of the ban would require concrete steps by Vietnam in allowing freedom of speech, worship and assembly and releasing political prisoners.
Obama met about six activists and said there were “significant areas of concern” about political freedom. He praised those Vietnamese who were “willing to make their voices heard”.
Two activists who spoke to Reuters said an intellectual, Nguyen Quang A, had been taken away by unknown men before he had hoped to meet Obama, citing his relatives.
Reuters could not verify the information and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, in a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Obama said “modest” human rights improvements had been made and the decision to end the arms embargo was about the changing dynamic in ties and “not based on China”.
But China’s Global Times tabloid, run by the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said that was a lie and made a point of what it said was a US willingness to relax standards on human rights for the sake of containing China.
The White House “is taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea”, it said.
Some activists have expressed disappointment that Obama may have given away leverage with the communist leadership.
President Barack Obama attends a press conference with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace Compound in Hanoi on May 23, 2016.


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