Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022


Vietnam: Human Rights

1:32 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Those who follow my social media might recall a recent Facebook post on the terrible situation facing Mr Chau Van Kham, a 73-year-old human rights campaigner who is currently serving 12 years in a Vietnamese prison. Mr Chau is an Australian citizen who was born in Vietnam and migrated to Sydney after the fall of Saigon. The retired banker was arrested within hours of his arrival in his former country and faced charges of being involved with a 'terrorist activity'. For context, Mr Chau is a member of Viet Tan, a pro-democracy and human rights organisation that Vietnam, curiously, designates as a terrorist organisation. According to his wife, Mr Chau was only in Vietnam to monitor the human rights situations on the ground, to see for himself. But now he faces what Human Rights Watch have likened to a death sentence for someone of his health and age.

As someone who fought communism in the Vietnam War and endured years in a forced labour camp, why would Mr Chau return? According to those close to him, he often expressed a dream of seeing the country he still loves become free and democratic. Amnesty International and others consider Mr Chau to be a prisoner of conscience, targeted and jailed solely for expressing his peaceful political beliefs. It's a frightening reminder that the world can still be a hostile place for those seeking liberty and democracy for others.

As you might imagine, Mr Chau's family are very deeply concerned and are tirelessly campaigning for his release and return to his home here in Australia. This cause is firmly supported by the Vietnamese community in Western Australia and, in particular, Mr Dai Nguyen. So I offer my voice in this place in the hope it might highlight and even assist these efforts and to sincerely thank all those who are doing everything they can to see justice.