Vietnam’s ministry of foreign affairs denied that it refused to grant a visa to a US lawmaker representing many overseas Vietnamese to visit the country next week. Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from California, is expected to be part of a delegation headed by the House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert. She said Thursday April 6 that Hanoi denied her a visa.
“The information is not accurate,” foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung told AFP in a statement.
“Upon the US request, we are ready to grant a visa for madam Loretta Sanchez to enter Vietnam as a member of the delegation.”
He said the Vietnamese embassy in Washington also told Sanchez’s office that she is free to visit.
Sanchez is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s human rights record, and her district encompasses the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and some of Fullerton in Orange County, which includes “Little Saigon,” the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam.
Sanchez said she wanted to meet with dissidents and political prisoners and discuss various issues with the Vietnamese government, including reunification of families, alleged human rights abuses, media restrictions and trafficking of Vietnamese women by sex syndicates.
The United States has asked Vietnam to release all key political and religious prisoners ahead of President George W. Bush’s visit for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in Hanoi in November.
Vietnam rejected the call saying it only jails criminals.
The US delegation will be received by prime minister Phan Van Khai, officials said earlier. Hastert is also expected to visit a church in Hanoi.