Editorial

Another dictator is praised

Monday, June 26, 2017

We can add one more dictator to the growing list of human rights violators with whom our president has become pals.

President Trump recently met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to discuss trade and security issues.

A joint statement released by the White House after the visit lauded Vietnam for its “ongoing efforts to refine its legal system to better protect and promote human rights for everyone.”

Vietnam has a history of oppressing political dissent. The State Department’s Vietnam 2016 Human Rights Report called the country an “authoritarian state.” Freedom House gives it the lowest possible rating on political rights and classifies it as “not free.”

According to Human Rights Watch, repression in Vietnam may have worsened in the past two years, coinciding with an uptick in violent attacks against activists and bloggers who have spoken out against the party line.

We have to be realistic regarding the existence of dictatorships. Most of the world’s 7.5 billion people live in countries that are not free according to our understanding of the concept.

We need to have trade relations with dictatorships. Diplomatic visits somewhere below the level of president are appropriate, but let’s never praise an oppressive regime with false statements about human rights progress.

We owe it to those striving for a free society at great personal risk to expose oppression and to stand behind our own long-held principles.