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5/9/03 - VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS DAY - 2003-05-09


At ceremonies held May 9th at the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress, labor leaders, representatives of the Vietnamese community, and human rights activists reaffirmed their support for the non-violent movement for human rights in Vietnam.

On May 11th, 1990, a Vietnamese physician, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que published a call for peaceful opposition to Vietnam's Communist government. For this, Dr. Que was sentenced to twenty years in prison. He was released in September 1998, on condition that he leave Vietnam. This he refused to do. In March 2003, Dr. Que was arrested again and is still being held virtually incommunicado.

Dr. Que is not the only victim of Vietnam's repressive state apparatus. Human rights activist Le Chi Quang was sentenced in October 2002 to four years in prison for publishing articles on the Internet deploring Vietnam's human rights abuses. Other imprisoned dissidents include Tran Van Khue and Nguyen Khac Toan. Roman Catholic priest Nugyen Van Ly is serving a fifteen-year prison term for submitting written testimony to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

As Dr. Quan Nguyen, chairman of the International Committee for Freedom, put it, "The arrest of Dr. Nguyen Dan Que and other dissidents who just peacefully express their opinions proves that there is no freedom of information in Vietnam."

Vietnam has stepped up its repression of the Montagnard minority. A report by Human Rights Watch documents beatings, arrests, land confiscation, and church closings suffered by the Montagnards at the hands of the Vietnamese government. The U.S. Government has documented the extensive abuse of human rights in Vietnam in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights. It has also repeatedly raised its concerns with the government of Vietnam, both in individual meetings and through its U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue. The future of this dialogue is in question, due to lack of results.

It remains to be seen whether the Vietnamese government will voluntarily move towards respect for human rights. But the U.S. salutes those who bravely continue to strive for non-violent reform.

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