Press Release

Nov. 21, 2019


VNHRN Announced 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award Winners

Little Saigon (11-21-2019) - At a press conference in Little Saigon today, Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN) announced the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Winners. Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, Ms. Nguyen Dang Minh Man, and Lawyer Le Cong Dinh are three individuals selected from a nomination list of 12 individuals and 3 organizations.

Established in 2002, the Vietnam Human Rights Award has been bestowed to the individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to and have demonstrated influence on the promotion of justice and human rights movements in Vietnam. It is also an opportunity for Vietnamese in the Diaspora to show their solidarity with those who have engaged in the relentless fighting for Vietnamese people’s basic rights.

By 2018, 44 individuals and 4 organizations were awarded the Vietnam Human Rights Award. This year, the awarding ceremony will take place at the Senate of Canada Building, Ottawa, Canada on December 7, 2019, on the occasion of the 71st International Human Rights Day.

Also at this meeting, VNHRN has published a Joint Statement about the horrific deaths of 39 Vietnamese victims in the UK on October 23, 2019.

The following are the brief highlights of the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award winners: 



Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, born in 1971, is a resident of Quang Xuong district, Thanh Hoa province who has joined the Protestant "Viet Nam Full Gospel Church” since 2002.  In 2008, after his ordination, Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton enthusiastically embarked on the path of evangelization in an environment where he was constantly harassed and repressed by the Vietnamese Communist Government. Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton has repeatedly voiced demands for the right to freedom of religion for himself, for his congregation, and for all believers in general.

In the process of fighting for religious freedom, Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton realized that religious freedom was violated by the communist government's religion-eradication policy. Therefore, he associated the struggle for religious freedom with criticism of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s (CPV) dictatorial, one-party, corrupt, and unjust policy. To make his voice more expansive and stronger, he joined Block 8406 and the Inter-Religious Council of Vietnam. In addition to speaking out peacefully through his personal Facebook, Pastor Nguyen also actively expressed his civil rights to improve society such as sending a letter to the National Assembly in 2013 suggesting amendments to the Constitution, especially the abolishment of Article 4 that gives a monopoly of national leadership to the CPV. He also applied as a self-nominated candidate for the 17th National Assembly election in 2016.

Instead of listening to the honest voice of the people, the Vietnamese Communist Government viewed Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton as an adversary, sought all despicable and violent means to attempt on his life, and used state propaganda to slander and smear him. His family is constantly threatened, persecuted; their livelihoods destroyed. He was regularly monitored, harassed, interfered with, and repeatedly assaulted.

Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was first arrested and sentenced to 2 years in prison and 2 years on probation for "conducting propaganda against the state" in 2011, in the same case with human rights activist Ho Thi Bich Khuong. After his release, Pastor Nguyen continued to fight relentlessly for human rights and democracy as a member of the Former Prisoners of Conscience Association of Vietnam and the Brotherhood for Democracy.

In February 2017, Pastor Nguyen and Mr. Nguyen Viet Tu, another member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, were abducted, assaulted and brutally beaten by police-in-disguise thugs when they were on their way from Thanh Hoa to Quang Binh.

On July 30, 2017, Pastor Nguyen was arrested again by the Vietnamese security forces along with several other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, including former political prisoners Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen. In the April 5, 2018 hearing, members of the Brotherhood for Democracy were penalized with heavy sentences by the Vietnamese Communist court on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the government.” With respect to Pastor Nguyen, then as the leader of the group, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 3 years on probation. Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton is currently being held at Gia Trung prison camp, Gia Lai province.

Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton is a gentle and sincere person who loves the poor and the oppressed. He courageously stood up to peacefully defend and fight for human rights, democracy, and national territorial integrity despite adversities including defamation, threats, livelihood destruction, assault, and imprisonment. He deserves to be praised and awarded the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award.



Nguyen Dang Minh Man was born in 1985. In 1989, at the age of 4, Nguyen Dang Minh Man and her family fled to Thailand to seek freedom. While there, they had to move from refugee camp to refugee camp and live in deprivation for 7 years before being deported back to Vietnam.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man grew up in a harsh environment with those who were considered “enemies of the regime”. Under these dire circumstances, she became aware of the meaning of freedom and dignity at a very young age. It was the reason that motivated her to follow the path of struggle for democratic political institutions and a humane society in which freedom and human rights are respected.

Since 2009, Nguyen Dang Minh Man has participated in many activities to oppose China’s aggression (e.g. China’s Bauxite Project in the Central Highlands, coercion in the South China Sea, and occupation of the Paracel and Spratly Islands) and assisted victims of injustice in finding gathering points for their trips to Saigon to protest and denounce corruption. She also took photos of the protests, published them on social networks, and reported to foreign media outlets.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man was arrested by the Communist authorities on July 31, 2011, along with her mother, older brother and several other young people. In the first instance trial on January 8 and 9, 2013 in Nghe An, Nguyen Dang Minh Man and 13 others were charged with "activities to overthrow the government" and received harsh sentences. Particularly, Nguyen Dang Minh Man was sentenced to 8 years in prison and 5 years on probation. Her mother was also sentenced to 3 years in prison, and her brother to 3 years in prison.

In her final words at the first instance trial on January 9, 2013, Nguyen Dang Minh Man frankly declared, "I ask the Trial Panel to reduce the punishment for my Mother and my brother. As for myself, I do not need any leniency for I know what I did was right.”

During her imprisonment at Detention Center No. 05 (Thanh Hoa), Nguyen Dang Minh Man was, on several occasions, injured by guard-instigated common criminal prisoners’ beatings and put in solitary confinement with her legs in shackles. Despite being physically and mentally tormented in many different prisons for 8 long years, Nguyen Dang Minh Man remained firm and undaunted in the face of violence. Instead, she went on many hunger strikes to protest the mistreatment of political prisoners, and to demand legitimate rights for herself and other prisoners.

In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the Communist Party of Vietnam to unconditionally release the photojournalist and activist Nguyen Dang Minh Man. The group stated that there was no information showing that Ms. Minh Man was involved in violence, or that her work directly caused any violence. Therefore, her arrest and detention could not be related to any threat to national security.

On August 2, 2019, Nguyen Dang Minh Man completed her 8-year imprisonment and returned to the welcoming arms of her friends and family. As a small woman but with an indomitable will, courage, and unquestionable patriotism, Nguyen Dang Minh Man has shown young generations of Vietnamese, both inside and outside the country, a peaceful but resolute way to fight for Freedom, Dignity, and Human Rights. For the above-cited reasons, Nguyen Dang Minh Man deserves to be praised and awarded the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award.



Lawyer Le Cong Dinh was born in 1968 in Saigon. After completing his law degree program in Vietnam, he received a Fulbright scholarship to Tulane University in the United States for his Master of Laws degree. After graduation, he returned to Vietnam to work in the legal field as a lawyer and a law professor. He is a member of the Bar Association of Vietnam and the United States, and a member of the council representing Vietnam - the Asia-Pacific Bar Association, a member of the South China Sea Research Foundation. He was elected to the position of Vice President of Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association (2005-2008).

 Le Cong Dinh is a courageous lawyer of high caliber. Though never having had the illusion that there is an independent court or impartial judiciary under the Vietnamese communist regime, lawyer Le Cong Dinh still defended many famous dissidents such as lawyers Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, and blogger Dieu Cay Nguyen Van Hai in their political cases.

Lawyer Le Cong Dinh is also known as an in-depth, sharp, and sensitive researcher and commentator. In his writings, he candidly expressed his support for democracy, multi-party, pluralistic democracy, and reform of Vietnam's legal and political system. He actively committed to promoting the ideals of Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights, and criticizing the social injustices, national corruption, and the authorities’ weak resolve against China’s aggression.

In 2005, together with Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Le Thang Long, lawyer Le Cong Dinh established Chan Research Group to study the political, economic, and social situation of Vietnam. The group's "Vietnam Road" book recommends respect and human rights support as a strategy to overcome the risk of economic collapse. At the time, lawyer Le Cong Dinh joined the Democratic Party of Vietnam and assumed the position of General Secretary, succeeding the late Professor Hoang Minh Chinh.

Concerned about the widespread influence of the young intellectual group, the Vietnamese communist government sought to suppress it. In May 2009, Le Cong Dinh was arrested along with Tran Huynh Thuc, Le Thang Long, and Nguyen Tien Trung. They were charged with the "Activity to overthrow the government" under Article 79 of the Criminal Code of the Vietnamese communist government. On January 20, 2010, the Court in Saigon sentenced lawyer Le Cong Dinh to 5 years in prison and 3 years on probation. Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and Le Thang Long were sentenced to 7 to 16 years in prison.

Under pressure from international public opinion, on February 6, 2013, the Vietnamese Communists granted lawyer Le Cong Dinh early release. However, since his release, he has often been followed by plainclothes public security men and continually smeared by the state propaganda machine. Despite such harassment, lawyer Le Cong Dinh continues to follow the path of nonviolence for Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights with his fluent and sharp pen. In a recent article, lawyer Le Cong Dinh wrote, “If I had previously committed to freedom and democracy as a mere idea while making a living dominated most of my daily activities, now my livelihood has become secondary to bringing democracy to Vietnam.”

Despite being a highly talented young intellectual with a stable position in society and destined to be among the most affluent, lawyer Le Cong Dinh has instead chosen the path of fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights for his people, where he was met with imprisonment and persecution. The Vietnam Human Rights Network recognizes his sacrifices for this noble cause and solemnly presents the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award to lawyer Le Cong Dinh.



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About 39 Vietnamese victims of tragic death in the United Kingdom on October 23, 2019


The case of the 39 Vietnamese victims who died tragically in a refrigerated truck trunk in the United Kingdom on October 23, 2019, has caused a vigorous emotional shock worldwide. In the face of such a serious human tragedy, we, undersigned signatories wish to state that:

-  This tragedy is deeply rooted in the failure of bad government policies and governance, especially in labor and working conditions, of the communist government of Vietnam.

-  The policy of controlling public information, and impersonal attitude of the authorities at all levels, show that the Vietnamese government is flat-out irresponsible to its own people.

-  Cross-border human trafficking through China under the cover of national laws & authorities is not only a crime against humanity but also a national atrocity. 

From the above assessment, we, undersigned signatories hereby:

1.   Express our deepest condolences to the 39 victim's families; and pray for the souls of the victims to rest in peace.

2.   Condemn vigorously the crimes against humanity of transnational-scale human trafficking organizations which are originated in Vietnam, supported by China, and covered by the Vietnamese communist government.

3.   Call on governments to respect human dignity, and international human rights organizations to act urgently and resolutely to end criminal activities of trafficking lines which are known to be covered by the Vietnamese, and Chinese governments.


Done on the seventh of November, 2019
- Vietnam Human Rights Network, Nguyễn Bá Tůng, DPA, Executive Director
- Vietnam Free Labor Federation, Mr. Nguyễn Đěnh Hůng, President
- Movement of the Vietnamese Laity in Diaspora, Mr. Phạm Hồng Lam, Coordinator

- Defend The Defenders, Mr. Vũ Quốc Ngữ, Executive Director

- Vietnam Restoration Party, Chu Văn Cương, DDS, President






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