NOV. 20, 2022
Vietnam Human Rights Network Holds a Reception Celebrating the 25th Anniversary and Announces the 2022 Vietnam Human Rights Award Winners.
Little Saigon – November 20, 2022 – The Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN) held a reception to celebrate its 25th-anniversary (1997-2022) on the afternoon of November 20, 2022, at the Community Center of Westminster City, California.
The reception had three primary purposes: Reporting on the Network’s activities over the past 25 years, recognizing the Network’s supporters, and announcing the 2022 Vietnam Human Rights Award.
Many friends, supporters of the Network, and special guests attended the reception. Among the special guests were Ms. Ann Lau, Mr. Ly Phong, on behalf of Representative Alan Lowenthal, Mayor of West Minster City Ta Duc Tri, Mayor Pro Tem of Garden Grove City Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen, and some other elected officials in the region. In addition, several religious, political, and community leaders and former prisoners of conscience, including former recipients of the Vietnam Human Rights Award, were also present.
On that occasion, VNHRN officially recognized two special guests, Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Ms. Ann Lau.
Congressman Lowenthal has served as the representative for California’s 47th congressional district since 2013. During 20 service years, he has dedicated his time and effort to help promote and defend human rights for Vietnamese people, especially human rights activists. He has sponsored more Vietnamese prisoners of conscience than any other congressman or senator. Particularly for the Vietnam Human Rights Network, Rep. Lowenthal is a good friend and an excellent supporter in the struggle for the Vietnamese people’s human rights and freedom.
Ms. Ann Lau is the Chair of the Visual Artists Guild, a non-profit organization championing the right to freedom of speech and expression. In 2017 the Vietnam Human Rights Network received the Spirit of Tiananmen Award from the Visual Artists Guild, together with prominent human rights activists in China, including Lam Wing Kee - Hong Kong bookseller, Human Rights lawyers Xie Yang, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, and Jiang Tianyong. On top of this honor, the Vietnam Human Rights Network also received friendly and assiduous support from the Visual Artists Guild and Ms. Ann Lau for the last 25 years.
Three founding members who have made outstanding contributions to VNHRN’s activities also received certificates of merit, including Professor Nguyen Thanh Trang, Doctor Lam Thu Van, and Professor Tran Duc Thanh Phong.
Instead of holding a press conference to announce the Vietnam Human Rights Award’s winners as in previous years, the VNHRN declared the winners at the reception. Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, Head of the Executive Board, told the audience that VNHRN had received 19 nominations from Vietnam and overseas. After due and diligent consideration, the Selection Committee came out with three outstanding candidates for this year’s Award: poet Tran Duc Thach, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and activist Luu Van Vinh with his Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition (see attached achievements). He also said that the 2022 Vietnam Human Rights Award ceremony will be held in Frankfurt, Germany, with the cooperation of the Federation of Vietnamese Refugees in Germany on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2022.
In closing, some distinguished guests, including Father Nguyen Huu Le from New Zealand, Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh speaking from Vietnam, the Mayor of Westminster, and the Mayor Pro Tem of Garden Grove City. On behalf of the United Council of Vietnamese Homeland and Overseas, Dr. Vo Dinh Huu also awarded Rep. Lowenthal and VNHRN two certificates of merit.
The following is a summary of the 2022 award recipients.
POET Tran Duc Thach
After being discharged from the army, he started fighting for democracy, human rights, and territorial integrity with some local activists.
He is the author of hundreds of poems, a novel, and many articles, in which he decries social injustice and human rights violations.
In his most shocking writing, “The Haunted Burial Pit,” Tran Duc Thach described what he witnessed, as a scout squad leader of the 8th battalion, 341 Division, at the battle around the provincial capital Long Khanh in April 1975. The North Vietnamese soldiers massacred hundreds of innocent civilians in Tan Lap commune, now called Xuan Lap, Xuan Loc district, Dong Nai province. When he heard gunfire and ran to ask his teammates to stop firing, he learned that his superiors had ordered them “Rather mistakenly kill than to miss an enemy.”
For peaceful activities to demand justice, human rights, democracy, and territorial integrity, Thach was arrested and put on trial by the communist government on October 6, 2008, and sentenced to three years in prison and three years probation for “Propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
After being released from prison, he was repeatedly harassed, persecuted by local authorities, arrested, and detained because he refused to give up his ideals of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peaceful work for his dreams.
In 2013, he joined the Brotherhood for Democracy to fight for democracy and human rights.
He was arrested for the second time on April 23, 2020, on charges of “subversive activities of the people’s administration.” On December 15, 2020, the People’s Court of Nghe An province sentenced him to 12 years in prison and three years of probation in the first-instance trial in just one morning. On March 24, 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the first instance court in less than 2 hours.
For Tran Duc Thach, although the war has ended, the fight against evil to regain human dignity and rights has never ended. Before the communist appellate trial court in March 2021, Tran Duc Thach said:
“This trial is the final notes of my life’s epic, tragic song. It will not end here, but it will hum forever along the historical flow of Vietnamese people, of those who love their motherland and sacrifice for justice.
I am very proud to join my friends in committing to the cause of democracy for Vietnam and the cause of fighting against China’s manipulation and invasion of Vietnam...”
Currently, prisoner of conscience Tran Duc Thach is being held in camp 5, Thong Nhat district, Thanh Hoa. His health deteriorated due to old age and the inhumane conditions of communist prisons; However, his will remained steadfast. Nguyen Thi Chuong, the wife of poet Tran Duc Thach, recounted what he told her when she and two relatives visited him at the prison in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province: “Whether 12 years (prison) or 20 years (prison) prison) or with no return date, he retains his will.”
Journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy
Journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy was born in 1952. He joined the North Vietnamese communist army at the age of 20 and was discharged 22 years later; however, he was never a member of the Communist Party of Vietnam. During his 22 years in the army, he had the opportunity to collide with party members and the inhuman communist apparatus, so he understood the pervasive deception of this political regime.
That experience helped him have a decisive attitude when entering the fight for his ideal of dignity and humanity.
Since 2011, Nguyen Tuong Thuy has participated in many social justice and national sovereignty activities, such as demonstrations against Chinese aggression, marches to protect Hanoi’s trees, relief for disaster victims and the poor, and speaking up for land rights petitioners. He is the Deputy Executive Board member of the “Bau Bi Tuong Than Association,” a civil society organization that supports prisoners of conscience and land rights petitioners. In addition, he is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a civil society organization whose mission is to “build a progressive, just and civilized democratic society in Vietnam.”
In 2016, Nguyen Tuong Thuy ran for the 14th National Assembly as an independent candidate. Yet, he affirmed that: “The candidacy for the National Assembly does not mean that I accept the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam (expressed in Article 4 of the Constitution) as well as other inadequate provisions.” However, the communist government rejected his candidacy through the local voter conference mechanism.
Although those diverse engagement activities, Nguyen Tuong Thuy’s primary means of fighting injustice is the pen, he writes newspapers and blogs. He owns a blog and Facebook page with millions of visits. He is also a contributor to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
In 2014, when the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) was founded, Nguyen Tuong Thuy assumed the role of Vice President of the association. The IJAVN is a specialized civil society organization with the purpose of “Reflecting honestly and deeply the hot issues of society and the country” and “Criticizing the unreasonable policies of the State regarding social governance and freedom of the press.” In this role, he collects and presents alarming societal events of public interest in all fields, from politics, economy, community, and culture.
Just because of comments that are different from the line of the Communist Party of Vietnam, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy is regularly monitored, harassed, threatened, and assaulted by security. The police also periodically find ways to limit his movement, not allowing him to leave the house to meet with other activists and representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He was often arrested at the police station, in the camp “Restore of dignity” in Loc Ha, or at the city police headquarters at No. 6, Quang Trung, Hanoi.
On November 21, 2019, journalist Pham Chi Dung, chairman of the IJAVN, was arrested and prosecuted for “producing, storing, and disseminating” documents against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
On May 23, 2020, a group of plain-clothes and uniform police from Hanoi City suddenly broke into Thuy’s house, searched all his personal belongings, and took him away.
On January 5, 2021, after only half a day of deliberation, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced journalist Pham Chi Dung to 15 years in prison, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy and journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan to 11 years in prison. In addition, all three were given three years of probation. All three activists were found guilty of “making, storing, distributing or propagating information, documents and items to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” according to article 117 of the Vietnamese Criminal Law.
The prison warden told Mr. Thuy that the sentence could be reduced to 7 or 8 years if he confessed. However, he always maintained his innocence and did not ask for a sentence reduction. Nguyen Tuong Thuy tore up the petition for appeal when he was forced to write it according to the instructions of the police officer. In a letter from the prison, he wrote: “I am calm and determined not to plead guilty to reduce my sentence. People only live once. If I had to do it again, I would still do the same.”
Currently, Nguyen Tuong Thuy is being held in An Phuoc prison in Binh Duong province. His health deteriorated day by day due to old age and many diseases.
ACTIVIST LUU VAN VINH AND the Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition
Mr. Luu Van Vinh was born in 1967 in Hai Duong, residing in Tan Binh district, Saigon. Since 2014, Mr. Vinh began contacting and meeting with opposition activists to discuss human rights and democracy issues. He participated in protests against China’s invasion, protested against the Formosa factory polluting the marine environment, and supported petitioners to claim back property seized by the communist government.
On July 15, 2016, Mr. Luu Van Vinh posted a notice on his personal Facebook, announcing the establishment of the Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition (VNSDC). The coalition’s mission is to demand “the CPV to return the right of national self-determination to the entire people so that they have the full right to choose a political system they want, by their vote, in a system of separation of powers.”
On November 6, 2016, the Ho Chi Minh City Police urgently arrested Mr. Luu Van Vinh and another VNSDC member, Mr. Nguyen Van Duc Do.
On October 5, 2018, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City held first-instance hearings of the VNSDC members, including Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia, and Phan Trung. According to the indictment, Mr. Vinh and his fellows have propagated, slandered, and distorted the guidelines and policies of the Party and State to eliminate the Party’s leadership role. After a quick trial of less than a day, all five defendants were convicted of “activities to overthrow the people’s administration” with heavy prison sentences: Mr. Luu Van Vinh, 15 years; Mr. Nguyen Quoc Hoan, 13 years; Mr. Nguyen Van Duc Do, 11 years; Mr. Tu Cong Nghia 10 years; and Mr. Phan Trung, eight years. They were also given an additional three years of probation sentence each.
After the sentencing, all five activists waved their handcuffed hands and repeatedly shouted, “Down with the trial,” “Down with the unjust trial,” and “Down with the Communists.”
The co-defendants denied the charges, asserted their innocence, and appealed, but in the appellate court on March 18, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City upheld the sentence.
While detained for investigation, the activists were beaten and tortured. As a result, it was not until November 12, 2017, that Luu Van Vinh was allowed to see his family for the first time since his November 2016 arrest.
International human rights organizations have called Vietnam to cancel the sentence and release these activists immediately.
In April 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published the opinion that the one-year incommunicado detention of activist Luu Van Vinh “creates the conditions that may lead to violations of the Convention against Torture, and may itself constitute torture or ill-treatment.”
Before the trial, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Vietnam should drop politically motivated charges against five pro-democracy campaigners from a political group that challenges the Communist Party of Vietnam’s monopoly on power. The government should immediately release them without conditions.”
Immediately after the trial, Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, said, “This cruel and senseless ruling is clearly aimed at stifling people’s right to speak their mind. They should immediately and unconditionally be released.”
Although short-lived, the VNSDC has demonstrated that the right to choose a political system freely is still a persistent aspiration of all people, especially the Vietnamese still living under the oppressive communist yoke. Mr. Luu Van Vinh and his friends consciously sacrificed themselves to fight for this ideal of human rights, despite serving many years in prison.