Nov 14, 2015
2015 Vietnam Human Rights Award Goes to Three Prominent Human Rights Activists in Vietnam
Little Saigon (11-14-2015) - At a press conference in Little Saigon today, Vietnam Human Rights Network (VHRN) announced that The Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh , Mrs. Ho Thi Bich Khuong, and Mrs. Bui Thi Minh Hang are the winners of the Human Rights Award for 2015. They were selected from a list of 25 nominations received from Vietnam and abroad.
The Vietnam Human Rights Award was founded in 2002 with the purpose of giving recognition to outstanding works in the defense of human rights in Vietnam. It is also an opportunity to show solidarity with and support for those involved in the relentless struggle for basic rights and justice for the people of Vietnam.
Since 2002, the award has been given annually to a constellation of selected human rights activists in Vietnam who have made their mark in the inexorable march towards freedom, human rights and democracy of the Vietnamese people. In previous years, The Vietnam Human Rights Award ceremonies were held in various countries and localities with significant overseas Vietnamese communities. This year, the ceremony will be solemnly held in Little Saigon on December 11, 2015, in conjunction with the commemoration of the 67th International Human Rights Day.
The following are brief biographies of the 2015 Vietnam Human Rights Award winners:
THE MOST VENERABLE THICH KHONG TANH
The Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, birth name Phan Ngoc An, is the Abbot of Lien Tri Temple, and concurrently Vice President of the Board of Executives of the Vietnamese United Buddhist Church Sangha and General Commissioner of the Buddhist Social Services and Charity. He is also one of the founders of the Vietnam Inter-faith Committee of which he is currently the representative for the Sangha.
As a monk, he has always been involved in the struggle for Human Rights and especially for religious Freedom. Consequently, he has been subject to Hanoi’s continual repression and vengeance. He was arrested and imprisoned for ten years – from 1976 to 1986 – because he had sent a letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister protesting the government’s decision to negate the monk’s deferment of military obligation that had been in existence since the Republic of Vietnam era.
In October 1992, Vietnamese police searched Most Ven. Khong Tanh's room in Lien Tri Temple and seized a diary of the Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang. He was subsequently accused of “circulating anti-government literature” and sentenced to 5 years in prison, and 5 years of probation.
After his early release in October 1993, he again involved himself in the social services and charity works. In November 1984, the police arrested him when he was soliciting donations and distributing relief gifts to the flood victims in the Mekong Delta. In August 1995, he and the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do were accused of “undermining the policy of unity and abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state," and were sentenced each to 5 years in prison.
Years after years, the Venerable has kept organizing charitable activities, distributing donated goods to disabled veterans of the former Republic of Vietnam and cancer-ridden children, and providing assistance to forced repatriated refugees. He also helped organizations of civil society find secure meeting places to promulgate their struggle for democracy and human rights. His efforts in inter-faith activities have given fresh vitality to the fight for religious freedom. Because of his activities, the government has continually harassed him and even threatened to confiscate the piece of land where his temple is located. Despite the government’s deterring measures, The Most Venerable has never faltered in his struggle for democracy and human rights.
MRS. HO THI BICH KHUONG
Ms. Ho Thi Bich Khuong was twice a victim of injustice. Her land and property were confiscated, and her business destroyed by the local authorities. She made several petitions to no avail. Because of her difficult situation, Ms. Bich Khuong had to join the “labor export” to go work in Korea. Witnessing the repression and exploitation of her fellow workers, she encouraged them to protest such abuses and was mistreated by the Korean employers. She reported the abuses to the Vietnamese Representative Office, who, instead of looking into the grievances, colluded with the employers and asked the Korean police to forcibly repatriate her.
Returning to Vietnam in 1999, Ms. Bich Khuong actively took part in the sit-ins of many victims of injustice coming from many locals to Hanoi to petition the return of their land, denounce corruption, and demand the enforcement of civil and human rights. She was imprisoned without trials at Hoa Lo Prison from May 11, 2005 until November 11, 2015. A year after being released from prison ,she joined Block 8406. She wrote about 30 articles challenging and denouncing communist totalitarianism. She has published voluminous literature promoting democracy and urging the population to join the struggle. She also helped victims of injustice write petitions or post their grievances on the Internet.
On May 26, 2007, she was arrested at Nam Dan City, Nghe An Province. In the face of brutal police torture during her detention, Ms. Bich Khuong steadfastly held on to her beliefs and exhibited a determination rarely seen in ordinary women. Her “courage under fire” is recorded in her book titled “My Journey of Struggle for Justice and Democracy”. After her second release from prison on April 26, 2009, she continued to fight for her cause. On June 15, 2010, she was arrested and severely injured by the Phu Nhuan police when she was on her way to visit her fellow advocates in Saigon. In early 2011, she was detained along with Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton when the two were copying the film “Loss of the Country - A Great Disaster” (Đại họa mất nước). She was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of probation for “propaganda against the State”. As of this moment, though still imprisoned, she is still fighting for her and her inmates’ rights to decent treatment and has been frequently beaten by her jailers.
Ms. Ho Thi Bich Khuong, a recipient of the 2011 Hellman/Hammett by Human Rights Watch, is a courageous fighter who has never wavered from her indomitable fight for freedom, democracy, and human rights despite arrests, imprisonments, and brutal beatings.
MRS. BUI THI MINH HANG
Although growing up in an influential communist family, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang became aware of the true nature of the Communists at an early age, when the local communist authorities appropriated the house she inherited from her father.
Since 2011, Ms. Minh Hang has enthusiastically taken part in demonstrations protesting China’s aggression in Vietnam’s territorial waters, and democracy and human rights movements. On November 27, 2011, she was arrested during the rally demanding that the Vietnamese National Assembly to pass the law on demonstration. She was put in Thanh Ha Education Center at Vinh Phuc Province for two years without any trials.
Owing to massive public pressure, Ms. Minh Hang was released after five months of detention. However, the police continued to follow and harass her with vile measures. She was nonetheless not deterred from pursuing her fight. Besides refusing to pay to the Defense Security Funds, she started a lawsuit against the Chairman of Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen The Thao, wrote to the US Secretary of State (July 5, 2012) and the U.S. Congress (July 10, 2012) denouncing the Vietnam Government’s unlawful measures against her.
Seeing her as a thorn in their sides that must be removed, a determined victim of injustice that must be destroyed, the authorities staged a “public order incident” to detain her and several others when they visited the human rights activists who had been persecuted in Dong Thap Province. On August 26, 2014, disregarding public protests, the communist regime sentenced her to a 3-year prison term. Undeterred, Ms. Minh Hang continued her fight for justice in jail. She went on hunger strike for two months (starting April 2, 2015) , and frequently communicated with other female inmates about human rights. As of today, she is still being held prisoner.
Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang is a relentless fighter. From Hanoi to Saigon, when not being detained by the Communists, she was always at the forefront of demonstrations against China’s aggression, illegal land/property appropriation, or gatherings demanding protection of her Fatherland and the release of detained activists.