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STATEMENT BY THE VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK ON THE RELEASE OF PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN VIETNAM

 

 Coinciding with the 2005 Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Vietnamese authorities have scheduled the release of over 8,000 detainees, including, most notably, 4 prisoners of conscience: Father Nguyen Van Ly, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Professor Nguyen Dinh Huy, and Reverend Thich Thien Minh.  Not only is this an important moment in the lives of the prisoners and their families, but it is seen by the international community as a milestone for the Vietnamese people’s struggle for human rights.  It should be noted, however, that the present-day optimism is tempered by several concerns: 

1)       Historical evidence indicates that changes in Vietnamese government policy are often influenced by international pressure.  The current release of prisoners of conscience is undoubtedly a tactic to help remove Vietnam from the list of “countries of particular concern” by the US State Department and enhance its chance for joining the World Trade Organization. 

2)       Only a few of the 8,000 individuals scheduled to be released are, in actuality, political detainees. The great majority of political prisoners remain in detention, including: Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, and three young Vietnam Human Rights Network’s award recipients: Dr. Pham Hong Son, journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, and former army member Nguyen Khac Toan.

3)       Journalists, including Nguyen Thi Lan Anh and Phuong Nam, continue to be persecuted for their views on government policy. This is indicative of the endemic government policy of repression of freedom of thought and expression.

 

The release of a handful of political prisoners should not be seen as an indicator of meaningful change.  It is rather, a half-hearted attempt by the Vietnamese communists to appease the international community, in lieu of true reform.  Until there is a fundamental change in the way in which the Vietnamese communist regime views its people, and, therefore, governs its people, human rights will continue to be violated.

 

We, the Vietnam Human Rights Network, therefore:

  1. Demand the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience currently in jail or under house arrest;
  2. Demand the Vietnamese government to enforce basic human rights;
  3. Sincerely call on Vietnamese all over the world to continue the fight for human rights denied by Vietnamese communists.

 

 

February 2, 2005

 

Nguyen Thanh Trang, Chairman

Vietnam Human Rights Network

 

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