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 joined the Protestant “Viet Nam Full Gospel Church” in 2002.  In 2008, after his ordination, Pastor Trung Ton enthusiastically began the work of evangelization in an environment of harassment and repression at the hands of Vietnam’s Communist government. He has repeatedly demanded the right to freedom of religion for himself, his congregation, and all believers.

Pastor Ton’s fight for religious freedom has made him a strong critic of the unjust policies of Vietnam’s dictatorial, one-party, corrupt government. To make his voice more expansive, he joined Block 8406 and the Inter-Religious Council of Vietnam. In addition to speaking out peacefully over Facebook, he found other ways to express his civil rights and improve society, such as writing to the National Assembly in 2013 to suggest amendments to the Constitution, especially the abolishment of Article 4, which gives a monopoly of national leadership to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). He was a self-nominated candidate for the 17th National Assembly in 2016.

Instead of listening to the honest voice of the people, the Vietnamese Communist government has viewed Pastor Ton as an adversary, made despicable and violent attempts on his life, and used state propaganda to slander and smear him. His family and their livelihoods are under constant threat. He has been regularly monitored and harassed, and repeatedly assaulted.

Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was first arrested and sentenced to two years in prison and two 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 Ton 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 Ton and Mr. Nguyen Viet Tu, another member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, were abducted, assaulted and brutally beaten by police disguised as thugs as they were on their way from Thanh Hoa to Quang Binh.

On July 30, 2017, Pastor Ton was arrested again by Vietnamese security forces along with other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, including former political prisoners Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen. In a hearing on April 5, 2018, they were found guilty by a Vietnamese Communist court of “conspiracy to overthrow the government.” As leader of the group, Pastor Ton was sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years of probation. He 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 oppressed. He has courageously and peacefully fought for human rights, democracy, and national territorial integrity despite defamation, threats, assault, and imprisonment. He is eminently deserving of the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award.



Nguyen Dang Minh Man was born in 1985. At the age of 4, she and her family fled to Thailand to seek freedom. There they moved from one refugee camp to another, living in deprivation for seven years before being deported back to Vietnam.

Ms. Minh Man grew up in a harsh environment, along with others who were considered “enemies of the regime.” In such dire circumstances, she learned the meaning of freedom and dignity at a very young age. This motivated her to follow the path of struggle for democratic political institutions and a humane society where freedom and human rights are respected.

Since 2009, Nguyen Dang Minh Man has participated in many struggles. She opposed China’s coercion in the South China Sea, China’s occupation of the Paracel and Spratley Islands, and China’s bauxite project in the central highlands. She helped victims of injustice find assembly points in Saigon to protest against corruption. She took photos of the protests, published them on social networks, and reported on wrongdoing on foreign media outlets.

Ms. Minh Man was arrested by Communist authorities on July 31, 2011, along with her mother, older brother and several other young people. In a first-instance trial on January 8 and 9, 2013, in Nghe An, she and 13 others were charged with “activities to overthrow the government” and received harsh sentences. Ms. Minh Man was sentenced to eight years of prison and five years of probation. Her mother was sentenced to three years in prison, and her brother to three years.

In her final words at the trial, Ms. Minh Man 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. 5 (Thanh Hoa), Ms. Minh Man was beaten on several occasions by criminal inmates instigated by prison guards and put in solitary confinement with her legs in shackles. Despite physical and mental torment in many different prisons for eight long years, she 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 photojournalist and activist Nguyen Dang Minh Man. The Group stated that there was no evidence that Ms. Minh Man had been 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 eight-year imprisonment and returned to the welcoming arms of her friends and family. A small woman of indomitable will, superhuman 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. She deserves the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award.



Lawyer Le Cong Dinh was born in 1968 in Saigon. After receiving his law degree in Vietnam, he received a Fulbright scholarship to Tulane University in the United States for his Master of Laws degree. Upon graduation, he returned to Vietnam to work as a lawyer and law professor. He is a member of the Bar Association of Vietnam and is also accredited in the United States. He also represented Vietnam in the Asia-Pacific Bar Association. He was elected Vice President of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association (2005-2008).

Le Cong Dinh is a courageous lawyer of high caliber. With no illusion that there exists an independent court or impartial judiciary under the Vietnamese communist regime, he has nonetheless defended many well-known dissidents, such as lawyers Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thi Cong Nhan, as well as blogger Dieu Cay Nguyen Van Hai against their politically-motivated state prosecutors.

Lawyer Le Cong Dinh is also known as an intelligent, in-depth, and sensitive researcher and commentator. In his writings, he has been candid in his support for pluralistic democracy, a multi-party arrangement, and reform of Vietnam's legal and political systems. He has actively committed himself to the ideals of freedom, democracy, and human rights, and has criticized social injustice, national corruption, and the authorities’ weak resolve against China’s aggression.

In 2005, together with Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Le Thang Long, lawyer Dinh established the Chan Research Group to study Vietnam’s political, economic, and social situation. The group's “Vietnam Road” book recommends respect and support for human rights as a strategy for overcoming the risk of economic collapse. At one point, lawyer 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 lawyer Dinh’s 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 “Activity to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code. On January 20, 2010, a Saigon court sentenced lawyer Dinh to five years in prison and three years of probation. Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and Le Thang Long received seven to 16 years in prison.

Under international pressure, on February 6, 2013, the Vietnamese Communists granted lawyer Le Cong Dinh early release. Since then, however, he has often been followed by plainclothes security agents and has been continually smeared by the state propaganda machine. Despite such harassment, lawyer Dinh continues to follow the path of nonviolence for freedom, democracy, and human rights with his fluent arguments and sharp pen. In a recent article, he wrote, “If I had previously committed to freedom and democracy as a mere idea while the need to make a living dominated most of my daily activities, now my livelihood has become secondary to bringing democracy to Vietnam.”

Despite being a highly talented intellectual with a stable position in society and destined to be among the affluent, lawyer Le Cong Dinh has instead chosen to fight for freedom, democracy, and human rights, and has met with imprisonment and persecution. The Vietnam Human Rights Network recognizes his sacrifices for these ideals, and solemnly presents the 2019 Vietnam Human Rights Award to lawyer Le Cong Dinh.


*       *



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 Tùng, DPA, Executive Director
- Vietnam Free Labor Federation, Mr. Nguyễn Đình Hùng, 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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