About Lê Quốc Quân

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 examined the role of civil society in countries that have made a successful democratic transition. He planned to write an article on how civil society can contribute to democracy in Vietnam. March 8, 2007 he was arrested by the communist authorities and subsequently charged with attempting to overthrow the people's government. At this time, Le Quoc Quan is being held at detention camp B14 of the Ministry of Public Security in Hanoi.

April 20, 2007

Free Le Quoc Quan

New York Sun Editorial

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

Letter to Vietnam President Nguyễn Minh Triết

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

Your Excellency:

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.

Sincerely yours,

Madeleine Albright


John McCain