Tie^'ng Vie^.t

Statement by the Vietnam Human Rights Network
Regarding Demonstrations by the Vietnamese Community
In Little Saigon, Westminster, California

Since January 18, 1999, the Vietnamese community in Southern California has maintained an almost daily demonstration against Truong Van Tran, the owner of a small store (HiTek Video) in a strip mall in Little Saigon, Westminster, California. Tran started hanging the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, or the Vietnamese Communist flag, in his store over a year ago without any protest from the Vietnamese community. The community accepted Tran's right of freedom of speech and had originally ignored his action. The community reacted only after Tran openly challenged them to take down the flag as well as a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the late leader of the Vietnam Communist Party.

Vietnam Human Rights Network, a worldwide network linking many organizations and individuals working for human rights in Vietnam, is mindful of the concern from the American public and Vietnamese compatriots from all over the world. Thus, it wishes to voice its stand and provide some facts for a better understanding of the demonstrations in Westminster as well as in other cities around the world.

  1. The Vietnamese community had generally ignored Tran's action until January 18, 1999 when he faxed a letter to a number of community activists as well as to the Vietnamese media to challenge and intentionally open old wounds.

  2. Although Tran's senseless abuse of his freedom of speech is outrageous, the Vietnamese community neither denies, nor has any legal authority to deny, any right from him. The community only peacefully demonstrated, as permitted by law, to express its opposition to these two symbols of Vietnam's worst evils.

  3. The Communist flag, called "Blood Flag", with an all red background represents horror. The portrait of Ho Chi Minh is an image of indescribable evils, known as "Ho the National Criminal". Their public exhibition reopens the painful wounds among the Vietnamese people who were witness to the torturous deaths of many of their relatives. Since 1945, Ho Chi Minh and his Communist Party have made virtually all Vietnamese their victims in their drive for power. Some of the tragedies are as follows:

    • Ho Chi Minh and the Communists, in the 1940's, have killed most of the best and brightest patriotic activists of the nationalist parties, including many spiritual leaders in all four major religions in Vietnam: Buddhist, Catholic, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao Buddhist.

    • Ho Chi Minh and the Communists with their infamous Land Reform Campaign in the 1950's condemned and killed tens of thousands of landowners, many buried alive.

    • Ho Chi Minh started the ruthless war to conquer South Vietnam in 1959. As a result of that aggression, millions of Vietnamese people and 58,000 American soldiers were killed.

    • The Communists cold-bloodedly massacred nearly seven thousand unarmed men and women in Hue, a major city in Central Vietnam, during Tet Offensive in 1968.

    • The Communists initiated several campaigns against former South Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon in 1975. During the campaign of Abolishment of Capitalist Class, they categorically confiscated people's properties, forced hundreds of thousands of people to exile in the meager New Economy Zones. The notorious Re-Education Policy has also incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people, subjecting them to hard labor under inhumane conditions. As a result, the world has witnessed an exodus of millions of boat people -- Tran included -- risking their lives on the high seas in which hundred of thousands have perished. This is the first time in Vietnamese history, if not in the world, that so many people have had to leave their country with such a risky escape in search of freedom and human dignity.

  4. The Vietnamese have readily accepted the fact that the war was over nearly a quarter century ago, it is time to forget the tragic past and heal the wounds, and it is time to foster our values of freedom and democracy through the medium of peace. However, the Communists never respect the people's wish. They set themselves above any law of the land. They installed their Constitution with the 4th Article giving them the monopoly of power. They have employed a system of administrative internment called Decree 31CP to legalize a routine practice of arbitrarily detaining persons for up to two years, with unlimited renewal, by local governments without judicial due process. International human rights organizations have also documented hundreds of political and religious prisoners who were held under disguised social crimes.

  5. On the morning of January 18, 1999, Tran confirmed in his interview with a Vietnamese news reporter that he had received faxes directly from the Vietnam Embassy in Washington DC. At another interview at his residence, a man working for Hanoi bearing the name Dao was present and answered questions for him. Recently, in the Nguoi Viet newspaper, several Vietnamese returning from Vietnam disclosed that they had been asked to "voluntarily" contribute US$50 per person for Tran's legal fund. Considering all this information, the Vietnamese community has reason to suspect that Hanoi has been in the background with attempts to divide and conquer the Vietnamese refugee community. Thus, the entire Vietnamese community overseas views that the Vietnam Communist Party, not Tran per se, imminently becomes a renewed threat to its hard-built livelihood and happiness.

  6. On January 21, 1999, the Vietnam Embassy in Washington DC issued a communiqué to demand "Tran's rights to belief". Also, Hanoi has employed the mass media system, including its mouthpiece Nhan Dan, as a propaganda machine in Vietnam to applaud Tran's action, condemn the demonstration in Westminster, and criticize the US government for its neglect in protecting Tran's freedom of expression. It is ironic that a dictatorial government such as Hanoi, which arbitrarily denies its own people's right to free speech and keeps jamming Radio Free Asia's broadcasts, strongly stands up for the right of an individual far away in a free country.

It is hoped that these evidences would help provide a better understanding among Americans and people around the world of our position and just cause. The Vietnam Human Rights Network once again affirms the respect of everyone's freedom of expression, including that of Tran's. Also, the Vietnamese community will continue to oppose human rights abuses by the dictatorial regime in Vietnam, symbolized by the red flag and the portrait of Ho Chi Minh. Morally speaking, not only Vietnamese victims but also all those who value freedom and are conscientious should stand up to oppose evils, regardless if such crimes are committed by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot, or Ho Chi Minh.

The Network fully understands the outrage of its community against the evil symbols and supports the movement for democracy and human rights in Vietnam. It is pleased and feels proud of the high-spirited and peaceful demonstrations carried on strict order and without violence. The Network calls on everyone to actively work toward freedom, democracy and human rights for our compatriots in Vietnam.

The Network sincerely hopes that friendly neighbors, co-workers, friends in minority communities, as well as fellow Americans and the world at large fully understand and generously support the Vietnamese community, and the Vietnamese people, in their struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights. Also, the Network would like to note that those civil disturbances created during this incident by a few reckless individuals are in no manner related to our peaceful and genuine movement. Nevertheless, the Network regrets any inconvenience that these large demonstrations by the Vietnamese community might have inadvertently caused to our neighbors and friends.

Date: March 12, 1999
Contact: Hieu Van Ngo
PO Box 6647, Torrance, CA 90504
Tel.: (310) 848-4085

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