By David E. Lowe
June 5, 2007
By David E. Lowe
May 11, 2007
The United States condemns the recent sentencings of democracy activists Anwar al-Bunni and Kamal Labwani to long terms of imprisonment and is alarmed by reports that they have been subjected to inhumane prison conditions. These developments demonstrate that the Asad regime in Syria continues to suppress dissent and crack down on those who peacefully seek to defend their rights and bring democratic reform to their country. As the President stated last year, all political prisoners in Syria should be released immediately.
We similarly deplore the increasing incidence of arrest and detention of political activists in Vietnam, such as Nguyen Van Ly, Le Quoc Quan, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, for activities well within their right to peaceful expression of political thought. We were particularly disturbed by the Vietnamese authorities physically preventing citizens from attending meetings at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with a Member of the U.S. Congress. As Vietnam's economy and society reform and move forward, such repression of individuals for their views is anachronistic and out of keeping with Vietnam's desire to prosper, modernize, and take a more prominent role in world affairs.
April 20, 2007
When Senator McCain signs a letter along with Vin Weber, who is a top policy adviser to Mr. McCain's rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, it is worth paying attention to, especially when the letter is also signed by President Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. The letter, addressed to the "president" of Vietnam, calls for the release by Vietnamese authorities of a 35-year-old lawyer, Le Quoc Quan, who was arrested March 8, shortly after he returned to his country from a five-month fellowship in Washington at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Messrs. McCain and Weber and Ms. Albright write that they are "shocked and outraged" by the lawyer's arrest. They warn that his detention casts a "dark cloud" over "the image of Vietnam and the prospects for improved ties between our countries." The American ambassador in Vietnam, Michael Marine, earlier this month circulated an opinion article that listed Le Quoc Quan as among "an increasing number of individuals in prison or under detention in Vietnam whose only crime was the peaceful expression of their views."
The ambassador wrote that the Vietnamese government "must release these and other individuals now. It must also take steps to revise or repeal laws so that the peaceful expression of one's views — even if they are critical of the state — is no longer illegal." The president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman, said in a statement, "It is a deep insult to the United States that the Vietnamese regime would harass someone in this way who has just participated in a citizen exchange program supported by the US Congress and Department of State."
A blog devoted to the case, freelequocquan.blogspot.com, carries an arrest notice for Le Quoc Quan that describes his crime as "‘Participation in activities to overthrow the People's government' as stated in Article 79 of The Criminal Code of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam." The notice says that he is being held at detention camp B14 of the Ministry of Public Security. The NED is urging concerned individuals to register their protests with the embassy of Vietnam in Washington, whose phone number is (202) 861-0737. President Bush honored Vietnam with a visit there in November. If this is how the communists return the favor, it will cause a lot of Americans to rethink the normalization of our relations with the country.
More broadly, at a time when Democrats and even some Republicans are agitating for a hasty retreat from Iraq, the arrest in Vietnam underscores the long-lasting consequences of American retreat. Thirty-two years after the fall of Saigon, the communist regime in Vietnam is jailing individuals for being associated with the idea of democracy. Do we really want to be reading in 2039 about the jailing of a young democracy advocate in Iraq?
April 19, 2007
His Excellency Nguyễn Minh Triết
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
We are the Chairs of, respectively, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI), three organizations based in Washington, D.C., whose directors include prominent businessmen, current and former members of Congress, independent scholars, and other distinguished Americans.
We are shocked and outraged to learn of the March 8 arrest of lawyer Lê Quốc Quân very shortly after his return to Vietnam, following completion of a five-month fellowship in residence at NED. The fellowship is part of an exchange visitor program funded by the U.S. Congress through a grant from the Department of State that has brought outstanding scholars and practitioners from over 50 countries since its inception six years ago.
During his fellowship at NED, Lê Quốc Quân pursued independent research on civil society. Quân impressed all who met him with his integrity, passion for assisting the poor, and commitment to assisting Vietnam’s growth and development. Throughout his fellowship, Quân was an outstanding representative of Vietnam and its people, winning many friends and bringing great credit to his country. The National Endowment for Democracy is honored to have hosted him.
We cannot emphasise strongly enough our deep concern over Quân’s arrest and the dark cloud that his continued detention casts over the image of Vietnam and the prospects for improved ties between our countries. We call upon you to make necessary arrangements for his swift release.
We look forward to receiving a prompt response to this letter.
March 30, 2007
Vietnam's democracy movement will soon mark the anniversary of a ground-breaking manifesto and the birth of a major new pro-rights group. So naturally Hanoi is marking the occasion by arresting activists, five of whom are due to appear in court today. Vietnam's much heralded economic opening may be continuing apace, but when it comes to politics, it's business as usual for the Communist Party leaders.
This story begins a year ago, with Vietnam perched on the brink of World Trade Organization accession and preparing to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. The government quietly eased up on its political opponents to enhance its international image in advance of the visit of President Bush and other world leaders for the APEC meeting.
The dissidents not so quietly took advantage of the opportunity. On April 6, 116 signed an open letter demanding an end to one-party rule and encouraging underground parties to come into the light. That was followed, on April 8, with release of a manifesto demanding basic freedoms for the Vietnamese people. We reprint excerpts1.
In the past year, the letter and manifesto have spurred a full-blown democracy movement known as "Block 8406." The message to the Communist government is clear: Vietnam may yet have a one-party government, but it is no longer a one-party country.
With WTO accession complete and APEC's foreign dignitaries safely seen off, the crackdown began in earnest on February 16, the eve of the Tet holiday. The government's harassment has hit members of groups such as the Alliance for Human Rights and Democracy in Vietnam, the People's Democratic Party, and the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam. A Protestant pastor, Nguyen Cong Chinh, and his wife reportedly were beaten by police before he was arrested. In some cases the dissidents were held and interrogated for only a few hours. Others remain in jail indefinitely. Some sit under house arrest. Many have "only" been threatened with prosecution. The whereabouts of several are unknown.
Hanoi's outrageous behavior has even touched the U.S. Le Quoc Quan was arrested on March 8, four days after returning to Vietnam following a fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C., where he pursued research on the role of civil society in emerging democracies. "It is a deep insult to the United States that the Vietnamese regime would harass someone in this way who has just participated in a citizen exchange program supported by the U.S. Congress and Department of State," president Carl Gershman says in a statement posted on NED's Web site.
The Catholic Church has also been hit. The February crackdown included the ransacking of the rectory of a Catholic priest, Nguyen Van Ly, 60, a founder of Block 8406. Father Ly has been relocated to a remote rural parish to await trial; he is among the five who will face Vietnamese "justice" today. The others, named nearby, include a 21-year-old woman, a teacher and an electrician.
Political repression is old hat for the Vietnamese government. But this latest wave of arrests is notable because it follows a year in which Hanoi has tried to present a "new" Vietnam to the outside world. And therein may lie what passes for good news in this story: Because Hanoi is increasingly sensitive to its image abroad -- and because it is seeking foreign investment -- the free world has considerable leverage. Experience already suggests that Hanoi is susceptible to international pressure.
In 2004, Washington's inclusion of Vietnam on its list of "Countries of Particular Concern" for religious rights abuses embarrassed Hanoi. The government curtailed some of its most glaring violations such as forcing believers to renounce their faith and banning house churches and even went so far as to sign an agreement with the U.S. in May 2005 in which it promised to behave. As a reward, Vietnam was taken off the list shortly before the APEC summit opened last year.
World leaders are again starting to take an active interest in the plight of Vietnam's dissidents. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the issue during recent meetings in Washington with Vietnam's foreign minister. A bipartisan group of U.S. Congressmen has introduced a resolution linking ties with Vietnam to its "adherence to the rule of law and respect [for] the freedom of religion and expression."
In Europe, a group of Swedish MPs recently traveled to Vietnam, where they met with family members of some of the jailed dissidents. When a Vatican delegation visited Vietnam this month, the leader raised the case of Father Ly with officials. Rights activists in Europe report concern among members of the European Parliament in Brussels. About the only major international body that appears to be averting its eyes is the United Nations, where Vietnam stands nominated for a rotating seat on the Security Council for 2008-09.
This week Hanoi bowed to pressure on at least one front and announced that it will stop placing dissidents under house arrest indefinitely without trial. The tack had been a favorite of the government since it effectively isolated political troublemakers without creating the public stir of a trial. The new policy appears to be the result of outside pressure. A September government analysis reportedly noted that the practice "has shown many limitations in the context of recent international integration."
The five democrats who go on trial today stand accused of threatening the Vietnamese state for demanding rights that citizens of free countries take for granted. Those dissidents, and all Vietnamese people hungry for liberty, deserve support from the free world.
March 23, 2007
Viet Nam granted permission for Mr. Le Quoc Quan to travel to the United States to pursue a fellowship for a period of six months sponsored by the Washington D.C. based National Endowment for Democracy. Le Quoc Quan was arrested when he returned to Vietnam on March 8, 2007.
Following is an interview with Mrs. Thu Hien, Quan’s wife, on the latest development of Quan’s arrest.
Thu Hien: This evening, March 20th, I came to see the Police, and they gave me the notice of Quan’s arrest and detainment.
Tra Mi: Is this the official arrest warrant of the Police?
Thu Hien: I don’t have the arrest warrant, this is only a notice that writes: “Investigation Division, Police Bureau, hereby notice on the arrest and detainment of Le Quoc Quan”.
Tra Mi: Do you know the location where Quan is currently being held?
Thu Hien: Quan is currently being held at the detainment camp B14 of the Police Bureau, Thanh Liet Hamlet, Thanh Tri, Ha Noi. In the notice, it writes that: “Le Quoc Quan participated and organized in the activities to overthrow the people’s government as stated in Article 79 of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.”
Tra Mi: Have you stated your wish or request when the Police gave you this notice?
Thu Hien: When they gave me this notice, I requested to see Quan, but the Police said that my request is denied at this time.
Honestly, I was shocked and in pain because I believe that my husband would never commit the crime that they imposed upon him. My husband just returned from his fellowship with the NED, and he has a law office with the dream of serving the poor and defending the workers.
I think, with this aspiration and completion of the fellowship, he could not commit any crime. Being labeled and arrested as such, I feel so painful. I strongly believethat my husband never commit such crime.
Later this evening, the Police allowed me to send aids to my husband, but at this moment, I am still not allowed to see him. Tomorrow, I will continue to request visitation rights to see my husband. Meanwhile, I will send him supplies and personal necessities.
Tra Mi: When the Police gave you the notice, did the government issue any request to you?
Thu Hien: The officer requested that I sign for the receipt of the notice in the evening of March 20th.
Tra Mi: How long has it been since Quan was arrested until you received this notice?
Thu Hien: 12 days. Quan was taken away on March 8th, I received the notice on March 20th.
Tra Mi: How are the activities of the law office “Quan and Brothers” that was founded by Le Quoc Quan? Does the arrest has any impact on its activities?
Thu Hien: The law office was searched and 1 computer was confiscated. I heard that attorney Trang, representative of “Quan and Brothers” in the South (Viet Nam), was also arrested.
Tra Mi: When did the arrest of attorney Trang occur? And was it related to the arrest of attorney Le Quoc Quan?
Thu Hien: Based on the information that I received today, attorney Trang was arrested on the same day when Quan was arrested.
Tra Mi: After Radio Free Asia interviewed you for the first time, we learned that your mobile telephone was locked. Did you find out why?
Thu Hien: When I learned that my mobile phone was locked on the morning of March 18th, I contacted the provider, and they explained that normally when phones are locked, it is either by the request of the client, the account is out of funds or by the order of the Police Bureau. In my case, the provider said “the reason for the lock is not provided”.
Tra Mi: With these three reasons for the lock of your phone, which one do you think that was applied to your case?
Thu Hien: As a client, I do not have the need to lock my phone number and I still have funds remaining in the account. That leaves the third reason, which is an order from the Police Bureau.
Tra Mi: Back to Quan’s arrest, having the official notice, what do you plan to do next to raise your voice for Quan?
Thu Hien: I need to find an attorney, and I want NED to speak out.
I know that NED is doing everything they could have done to bring to light the arrest of their fellow student, but I want NED to work to help the Vietnamese government better understand the NED’s fellowship, and to request the government to release Quan soon.
Tra Mi: Thank you very much for sharing with us the latest development of the arrest of attorney Le Quoc Quan.
March 20, 2007
Of the arrest, temporary detention of Le Quoc Quan
To: - The People's Committee of Yen Hoa Ward, Cau Giay, Ha Noi
- Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thu Hien, address: 504, No9, Trung Kinh,
Yen Hoa Ward, Cau Giay, Ha Noi
The Investigation Division of the Ministry of Public Security hereby informs you regarding the arrest and temporary detention of suspect:
Name: Le Quoc Quan Gender: Male
Date of birth: September 13th, 1971 in: Nghe An
Business address: Room 312, M11, Lang Trung, Lang Ha, Dong Da, Ha Noi
Residence: 504, No9, Trung Kinh, Yen Hoa Ward, Cau Giay, Ha Noi
Occupation: Director of Viet Nam Solutions Ltd.
For the action of: “Participation in activities to overthrow the People’s government” as stated in Article 79 of The Criminal Code of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.
Le Quoc Quan is currently being held at detention camp B14 of the Ministry of Public Security (Thanh Liet Hamlet, Thanh Tri, Ha Noi)./.
Investigation Division – ministry of Public Security
Nguyen Ngoc Thuan
March 18, 2007
According to the latest U.S. human rights report, Vietnam's record remains unsatisfactory. Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam where citizens cannot change their government.
Vietnamese authorities continue to exert control over the press and the Internet. The law requires journalists to pay damages to individuals or organizations harmed as a result of their reporting, even if the reports are true. As a result, there is less investigative reporting. The government forbids direct access to the Internet through foreign Internet Service Providers. Domestic service providers are required to store information transmitted on the Internet for at least fifteen days and must allow public security agents to monitor Internet activities.
Political opposition movements in Vietnam are officially prohibited and activists continue to be arrested. In the past year, police have detained members of the People's Democracy Party of Vietnam, which advocates peaceful political change. Several members of the pro-democracy group the 8-4-0-6 Bloc have also been detained. Father Nguyen Van Ly and Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have been arrested and are being charged under Article Eighty-Eight for disseminating propaganda against the state. There are also confirmed reports that former National Endowment for Democracy fellow Le Quoc Quan was detained on March 9th. Prominent political activists such as Do Nam Hai, Pham Hong Son, and Nguyen Dan Que face repeated harassment for their political activities.
An area that has seen some improvement is respect for religious freedom. According to the U.S. State Department human rights report, "conditions for most religious believers were markedly improved from previous years; in particular, hundreds of Protestant congregations were legalized throughout the country." Nevertheless, the 2005 government framework on religion continues to limit education, medical, and charitable work by religious groups.
The United States, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is recommitting itself to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights. And the U.S. is recommitting itself to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush's words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.
March 16, 2007
"Promoting Democracy in Vietnam: The Role of Civil Society"
A lawyer by training, Mr. Le Quoc Quan has worked for the past seven years as a local governance consultant to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and the Swedish International Development Agency. An active participant in Vietnam's struggle for democracy, he has been vocal in his defense of religious freedom and political pluralism, both as a law student and legal advocate, and in his writings for the BBC and several Vietnamese newspapers. He is founder of Vietnam Solutions, a firm that provides consulting services on local governance, poverty reduction, and grassroots democracy for development projects in Vietnam. During his fellowship, Mr. Quan is examining the role of civil society in countries that have made a successful democratic transition. He plans to write an article on how civil society can contribute to democracy in Vietnam. At this time, Le Quoc Quan's whereabouts are unknown, and there are no public charges against him.
"It is a deep insult to the United States that the Vietnamese regime would harass someone in this way who has just participated in a citizen exchange program supported by the US Congress and Department of State," said NED President Carl Gershman. "Le Quoc Quan is someone who is optimistic about the future of his country, who is most concerned about improving the lives of his fellow citizens, and who is nothing if not a Vietnamese patriot."
The National Endowment for Democracy urges the government of Vietnam to immediately make known the whereabouts of Le Quoc Quan; to make public any charges against him; to allow his family access to visit him; to treat him according to international human rights standards; and to release him.
Concerned individuals and organizations who wish to take action are urged to register a protest directly with the Embassy of Vietnam in Washington, DC.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR VIETNAMESE EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON
Ambassador H.E. Nguyen Tam Chien. (202) 861 0737
Minister Counselor (Political): Mr. DANG Dinh Quy (202) 861 0737 x230.
Minister Counselor - Deputy Chief of Mission: Mr. VU Dang Dzung (202) 861 0737 x 223.
Minister Counselor (Congressional Liaison): Ms. NGUYEN Nguyet Nga (202) 861 0737 x 225
Counselor (Political): Mr. NGUYEN Van Trung (202) 861 0737 x335
Embassy of Vietnam in the United States
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.861.0737Fax 202.861.0917
email@example.com - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tra Mi, Radio Free Asia
Following the arrests of Father Nguyen Van Ly, attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan and attorney Nguyen Van Dai, one more democracy activist has been arrested by the Vietnamese authorities: Le Quoc Quan who had been permitted by the Vietnamese government to travel to the United States to attend a six-month fellowship with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) based in Washington D.C.
After completing the fellowship, Mr. Quan returned to Vietnam and was soon arrested by security police in Ha Noi on March 8, 2007. There has been no official information on the arrest.
Tra Mi [of Radio Free Asia] interviewed a relative of his in Vietnam, an official of NED where he just completed the fellowship, and [Scott Flipse of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom]. Following is the interview with Ms. Hien, Le Quoc Quan’s wife:
Hien: Quan, my husband, was arrested on the evening of March 8. The police came, read the search warrant and then took him away. Three days later, I came to the police precinct; the police interviewed me shortly, and then said that Quan was transferred to the detention center of the Ministry of Public Security.
Since then, I came to the precinct several times to find out the whereabouts of my husband, but have not been able to see him.
Tra Mi: Where is the detention center of the Ministry of Public Security located?
Hien: It is located in Thanh Liet hamlet, Thanh Tri, Ha Noi.
Tra Mi: From the date of the detention have you been in touch with government agencies, been able to see or take care of your husband?
“The police have the search warrant, but not the arrest warrant. I have a copy of the urgent search warrant in which the police suspected that Quan has violated Article 79 of the Penal Code – the crime of overthrowing the People’s Government.” -- Ms. Hien
Hien: Yes, I have submitted letters to request permission to send supplies and rations, but so far I have not received any response.
Tra Mi: How long did the arrest take place after his return from the US?
Hien: We returned on the night of March 4th and the arrest took place on March 8th.
Tra Mi: So he returned to Ha Noi on March 4th?
Tra Mi: Prior to the fellowship has he ever have been summoned by the government for interrogation?
Hien: Just occasionally before, on several times to my knowledge.
Tra Mi: In his daily life has Mr. Quan even been harassed by the government?
Hien: Based on what I know, there were several times but not often. When he returned from the fellowship without having done anything he was arrested when came back from a visit to his home village.
Tra Mi: Based on your opinion what was the reason that led to Mr. Quan’s arrest?
Hien: I was not present when the arrest happened, but the search warrant is based on the suspicion that Quan violated Article 79.
Tra Mi: There was both a search warrant and arrest warrant?
Hien: The police have the search warrant but did not have the arrest warrant. They gave me a copy of the urgent search warrant which stated that the authority is suspicious of Quan violating Article 79 of the Penal Code which is attempting to overthrow the People’s Government.
Tra Mi: Until this point in time, in all of Mr. Quan’s activities, do you think that he has violated Article 79 as stated in the search warrant?
Hien: No, I don’t think so.
Tra Mi: Since the arrest until now, have you contacted the authority to request visitation? Have they answered your request or explained the reason for the denial of visitation?
Hien: Yes I have, and I have requested that if visitation is denied, then the authority must issue an official arrest order. The authority explained that based on Article 85 which states that if the official notice interferes with the investigation, then the government will not issue the official notice. There is no official notice in writing, I heard this from the investigator who also said that Quan is currently being held at the address I previously mentioned.
Tra Mi: What do you plan on doing next? Where would you go to petition for visitation?
Hien: Earlier this evening I have worked with the public security. I hope that Quan would be released later tonight or tomorrow. The police said the first day is volunteered and does not count, next is the temporary detainment for three days issued the first time, then three more days of extension which is six days, today is the seventh day.
Tra Mi: If Mr. Quan is not released tomorrow morning what do you have planned to defend him?
“Quan founded a law firm called ‘Quan and Brothers’ with offices located in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi. Quan said he wanted to be an attorney for the poor. He also said that he wanted to protect the rights of the workers.” -- Ms. Hien
Hien: I am writing to NED to inform them that one of their fellows has been arrested. I want to ask them to ask the [Vietnamese authorities] to release my husband when they don’t have the arrest warrant. Over here, I would seek legal counsel to seek visitation of my husband. I think that there is a mistake. Initially, I don’t think that my husband would not return until now.
Tra Mi: Thank you very much for your time.
Hien: Thank you.
March 14, 2007
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
We are deeply concerned that Le Quoc Quan, a Vietnamese lawyer who recently returned from a prestigious fellowship in Washington DC, was detained by the Vietnamese security police reportedly on the 8th of March 2007 in Hanoi. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Quan, aged 36, had been a Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. He was the first fellow from Vietnam at NED where he did in-depth research on the theories and practices of civil society.
Quan is a man of great humanity and tremendous fervor to serve others, especially those at the bottom of society. Quan loves his wife, Hien, and their 5-year old daughter, An-Ha, dearly, but we must say his heart and mind are divided between his family and underprivileged people in Vietnam. We were moved to hear first hand his passion for social justice and belief in the role of independent associations in national development.
Prior to NED, Quan worked for the past seven years as a local governance consultant to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and the Swedish International Development Agency. As a law student and later a legal advocate, Quan has spoken out against religious and human rights violations. His writings have appeared on the BBC and various Vietnamese newspapers and websites.
Quan’s apparent arrest is troubling. In your meeting with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem this week, we urge you to raise the case of Le Quoc Quan along with other Vietnamese citizens wrongly imprisoned such as Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and Father Nguyen Van Ly and insist on their immediate and unconditional release.
Founded in 2007, VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment) is a non-profit organization, providing a voice for the overseas Vietnamese community through advocacy for Vietnamese refugees, Vietnamese women and children victims of human trafficking, and other significant issues confronting the conscience of our community.
Cc: Members of Congress and human rights organizations.