Statement of Cao Trao Nhan Ban Movement on The Consultative Group’s Appeal to the Vietnamese Government to Respect Freedoms of Information and Expression of All Vietnamese Citizens

On December 3-4, 2009 the Consultative Group (CG) of donor countries to Vietnam held their annual meeting in Hanoi. Representatives of many aid-givers voiced concern about Vietnam’s new restrictions on the media and the Internet. Ambassadors of several countries strongly warned Hanoi that freedom of information and freedom of expression are essential to Vietnam’s economic development and cultural and social progress.

US Ambassador Michael Michalak, in his speech during the open session, stated, “Economic growth and development require an open and transparent environment for all stakeholders, Vietnamese and international.” He also lamented that there has been a “shrinking of the space for honest, reliable information.” According to Ambassador Michalak, “It is a question of people’s rights to communicate with one another, share ideas and to do business.”

Ambassador Michalak also advised the Hanoi regime not to restrict independent research organizations to publish findings critical of the Party and the State. “It makes Vietnam less attractive to foreign partners, especially but not exclusively in the field of education.”

He also emphasized that access to truthful information, freedom in research and dissemination of results, as well as the right to express different opinions, are absolutely necessary for the new technologies that enable an economy to prosper.

In particular, Ambassador Michalak urged the Hanoi government to pass a law that does not discourage “the rapid growth of civil society resulting from economic liberalization”.

Swedish ambassador Rolf Bergman expressed similar concerns, and on behalf of the European Union, called on Hanoi to “lift all restrictions on the Internet.” He said that the government of Vietnam should not only allow but also encourage the media and the NGOs to contribute to the oversight of authorities.

Canadian ambassador Deanna Horton, also on behalf of Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland, stated that the any new governmental legislation and regulations should allow for greater participation of the people in the development of Vietnam, “rather than placing additional restrictions and thereby risking progress.”

Moreover, many presentations at the meeting indicated that the inclusion of NGOs, mass organizations, and individuals will increase the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts.

Yet, in the face of such constructive recommendations from the ambassadors, Vietnamese Prime Miniser Nguyen Tan Dung was noncommittal in his reply with respect to freedom of Internet use of citizens.

Even today, the Hanoi regime has considered the Internet as a potential enemy. Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communication told the delegates of the National Assembly that “toxic and bad-intentioned information” has been circulated in cyberspace and it is the gathering place of hostile forces.

In fact, the Internet is currently the only means for the Vietnamese people to gain access to different sources of information and exercise their freedom of speech, which has been systematically violated. The politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) totally controls all forms of media. Today, the Internet is being circumscribed in order to control people’s thoughts and force them to think, speak and do as the Party says.

We categorically declare that the misguided developmental strategy of the politburo and their incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy have brought hardship to the majority of the Vietnamese people in all aspects of life. The failures of the communist government have also intensified unabated because information is concealed from the population and their freedom of expression is denied.

We are determined to resist any limits on our freedom of expression because they destroy the creativity of the human mind, undermine the economy’s competitiveness, and stunt the growth of future generations.

We are hereby demanding the politburo respond to the aspirations of the people as reflected in the recommendations of the Consultative Group at the meeting in Hanoi. Expanding the scope of information access and free expression will attract investments, help improve the lives of all Vietnamese, and move Vietnam away from poverty and backwardness. The Hanoi regime, which boasts that it is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” should be ashamed of the spectacle that takes foreigners to remind them to respect the fundamental human rights of the Vietnamese people.

We truly appreciate the ambassadors and representatives of the donor countries who, for the first time, raised their collective voice in solidarity with the Vietnamese people, to support our struggle to take back our basic freedoms, including freedom of information and freedom of expression. For too long, our rights have been robbed by the politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
Cao Trao Nhan Ban ( A Non-Violent Movement For Human Rights in Vietnam)
Saigon, December 6th, 2009

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