The Vietnam Human Rights Award 2014 and the 66th International Human Rights Day Ceremony in San José, California
San José, California —The 2014 Vietnam Human Rights Award (VNHRA) Ceremony [short video clip] along with the 66th International Human Rights Day Observance were solemnly held on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2014 at the Seven Trees Community Center of San José. In addition to approximately 200 Vietnamese compatriots and representatives from various Vietnamese organizations, attendees also included local government officials and representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In particular, three former VNHRA laureates also partook in this year’s ceremony, including Professor Nguyen Chinh Ket (2006), Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (2009), and Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu (2011) and his wife, Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, Esq.
The VNHRA was established in 2002 by the Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN) to honor individuals and organizations whose nonviolent activism strives for human rights for the Vietnamese people. Since its establishment, the VNHRA has honored 31 individuals and organizations for their contribution to the struggles for human rights in Vietnam. This year’s prizewinners included the Vietnam Redemptorist Province, human rights activist Nguyen Bac Truyen, and musicians/activists Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri (a.k.a. Viet Khang).
This was the first time the VNHRA ceremony was held in San Jose by the VNHRN in collaboration with local organizations and supported by some faraway organizations such as the Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience operating inside Vietnam. In previous years, VNHRA ceremonies were held in cities with large Vietnamese populations in the U.S. and other countries such as Australia (Melbourne, 2011), Canada (Montreal, 2012) and France (Paris, 2013).
The ceremony commenced with flag salutations and candles burning in memory of the prisoners of conscience being held in Communist prisons. After the welcoming remarks by journalist Huynh Luong Thien, Chief of the Organizing Committee, Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, Head of the VNHRN, addressed the significance of the 66th International Human Rights Day in the context of escalating human rights violations, and specifically the current violent repression of human rights activists. He also stated that the purpose of VNHRA is to not only commend the courage of VNHRA Laureates and their nonviolent struggles, but to also express the overseas Vietnamese communities’ solidarity with activists in Vietnam and their persistent and tenacious fight for human rights.
The ceremony culminated with the presentation of the awards in both Vietnamese and English. Father Nguyen Dinh De, on behalf of the Vietnam Redemptorist Province, accepted the award from Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung. Mrs. Jane Do Bui of the Women for Human Rights Association, on behalf Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen, accepted the award from Mr. Le Huu Thong, Esq., and Ms. Nam Yen of the Overseas Patriotic Youths Association received the award from Mr. Doan Thanh Liem, Esq., for the two musicians, Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh. There was thunderous applause after the presentations of each award and the laureates’ biographies. The audience was tremendously moved to be able to watch and listen to the voices of the laureates through video clips, or direct conversations from the winners’ representatives, which included the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in VN, Father Pham Trung Thanh, Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen, and Mr. Tran Van Viet representing both his younger brother Tran Vu Anh Binh and musician Viet Khang.
What followed were remarks from local government officials including Mrs. Cindy Chavez, Supervisor of Santa Clara County; Mr. Sam Licardo, the newly elected Mayor of San José; Mr. Jose Esteves, Mayor of Milpitas; Mr. Kansen Chu, the newly elected State Assemblymember; Mr. Nguyen Tam, Esq., the newly elected councilmember of San José City; and a representative of U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren.
Similar to the 2013 award ceremony in Paris which was supported by two international human rights organizations (Reporters sans Frontières/Reporters Without Borders and Avocats sans Frontières France/Lawyers Without Borders France), this year’s ceremony was supported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Representing these organizations were Mr. William Butkus, Field Organizer of Amnesty International, Western U.S.A. Region, and Mr. Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, both of whom were invited to give speeches at the event.
The last speaker was Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, the 2011 VNHRA laureate while incarcerated in Vietnam. Mr. Doan Thanh Liem, Esq., on behalf of the VNHRN, handed Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu the award his representative had received in 2011.
The ceremony concluded with musical performances by VNHRA supporters. Participants parted the ceremony with afflictions on the human rights tragedy in their motherland and compassion for the human rights activists, but with the hope for a brighter future when the Vietnamese people’s dignity and human rights will be respected and protected.