From business and strategic perspectives, Joe Biden's recent visits to Vietnam and India will likely be seen as bolstering ties with countries that can help Washington to counter China’s growing might. But for rights advocates, Biden's travels are a huge disappointment, given his administration's vow to prioritise human rights when taking office in 2021. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the government's Hindu majoritarian ideology is reflected in bias in the justice system, and authorities have intensified efforts to silence activists and journalists through politically motivated charges. Meanwhile, Vietnam is holding at least 159 political prisoners - people imprisoned for peacefully exercising basic civil and political rights - and at least 22 others were in detention pending eventual trial before a court controlled by the ruling Communist Party. In the first eight months of 2023 alone, HRW said, courts have sentenced at least fifteen people to long prison terms in violation of their rights to a fair trial. Reporters asked Biden in Vietnam if he was putting US strategic interests above rights and replied: ‘I’ve raised it (human rights) with every person I met with’.
But HRW said talking in private was not enough.