December 12, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Network 2015 Human Rights Award Ceremony and 12TH General Congress
Little Saigon – The Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN) held the commemoration of the 67th International Human Rights Day and honored the 2015 Vietnam Human Rights Award winners, including the Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, Mses. Ho Thi Bich Khuong and Bui Thi Minh Hang at 5 P.M. December 12, 2015, at Westminster Community Center. The event also marked the opening of the 12th General Congress of VNHRN.
In addition to Vietnamese compatriots, participants included local authorities, Vietnamese community representatives, and two well-known organizations, Amnesty International and the Visual Artists Guild.
In his opening speech, Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, Head of the VNHRN Coordinating Committee, spoke about the significance of the International Human Rights Day, the current human rights situation in Vietnam, and the commendable efforts of Vietnamese people in their fight for basic rights, of whom this year's Award recipients, the Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, Mses. Ho Thi Bich Khuong and Bui Thi Minh Hang, are the illustrative examples.
Regarding the 12th General Congress of VNHRN, he said VNHRN is entering its nineteenth year of existence as the human rights movement in Vietnam has grown more powerful. The main purpose of the Congress is to review and update the Network's operations to better adjust to new developments.
The highly anticipated evening reached its climax as the award winners' biographies and achievements were read aloud followed by the presentation of award plaques to the winners' representatives. The Most Venerable Thich Vien Ly, the abbot of the Overseas United Buddhist Sangha, received the award on behalf of the Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh; Blogger Uyen Vu on behalf of Mrs. Ho Thi Bich Khuong, and Ms. Nguyen Thanh Tam on behalf of Mrs. Bui Thi Minh Hang. The VNHRN also handed the 2012 Human Rights Award to Blogger Ta Phan Tan, who was still imprisoned by Vietnamese communists when the award had been conferred to her in Montreal, Canada.
Several guests, including elected officials, representatives from Amnesty International, the Visual Artist Guild, and Vietnamese community organizations, expressed their praise for the winners’ courageous efforts in their struggle for human rights in Vietnam.
The Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, on behalf of Mses. Ho Thi Bich Khuong and Bui Thi Minh Hang, expressed his gratefulness to the VNHRN and overseas compatriots for their steadfast support for human rights activists in Vietnam. He said, "As recipients of this year’s Vietnam Human Rights Award, we commit to join forces with all the recipients that came before us and those who will follow us. We wish to also join forces with all those whose struggles and sacrifices are recognized by our people, to join forces as well with all of you who are attending this ceremony today, so that Vietnam may soon enjoy democracy and human rights, and so that the country will soon find love, freedom and prosperity."
The awards ceremony and the 12th General Congress opening reception ended at 7 PM; the Congress continued the next day, December 12, with the attendance of about 30 members and a number of former prisoners of conscience who had recently arrived in the US, bloggers Ta Phong Tan, Uyen Vu, and Huynh Nguyen Dao. The Congress reviewed the past two years’ activities, discussed the current situation in Vietnam, and set out strategies and operations for the coming years.
The Congress elected members to the Supervisory Committee and to the Head of the Coordinating Committee for the 2015-2017 term. Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung was reelected to the Chairmanship of the Coordinating Committee, and Dr. Nguyen Van Duc, Professors Cao Van No and Do Anh Tai to the Supervisory Committee. The Congress also approved the VNHRN Statement concerning the current human rights situation in Vietnam, as follows:
STATEMENT OF THE 12TH VNHRN CONGRESS
The 12th VNHRN Congress, held on December 11 and 12, 2015 in Little Saigon, observes that:
- Vietnam has done nothing to improve the human rights situation as it had promised when joining the UN Human Rights Committee two years ago. On the contrary, the violations of the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, travel, association, and demonstration have become more systematic and severe.
- The use of security personnel disguised as thugs to beat up dissidents, human rights activists, and victims of injustice has become widespread.
- The number of people who die while being held at police stations continues to rise.
- Notwithstanding all these violations and harassments, the struggle for human rights has grown leaps and bounds.
As a result of this, the VNHRN Congress:
- Critically denounces the Vietnamese Communist authorities for the ongoing violations of human rights in Vietnam.
- Strongly demands that the Vietnamese Communist authorities immediately release all prisoners of conscience and stop the policy of “roughness and denial” as a tool to suppress human rights.
- Actively supports domestic individuals and organizations who promulgate and fight for their basic civil and human rights.
- Calls upon international communities, especially nations having commercial relations with Vietnam, to weigh human rights in their pursuit of economic gains.
California, December 12, 2015.
Vietnam Human Rights Network