Le Huu Minh Tuan is a young professional who expressed his concern for human rights in Vietnam starting at a very young age. He has participated in the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam since 2015 and has joined many collective movements across the country. He was arrested in June 2020 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on January 5, 2021, in a half day trial, together with prominent journalists Pham Chi Dung and Nguyen Tuong Thuy. The authorities accused them of writing “reactionary content,” of publishing articles that “distort the truth, incite individuals to rise up and overthrow the people’s government, or even incite hatred and extremism”.
However, this video of Tuan highlights the peaceful nature of his work and aspirations. He contends that he joined the IJAVN, a purely civil and professional entity, to pursue the rights enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution. He also emphasizes, explicitly, that his objective is never to topple the current regime.
Here‘s Le Huu Minh Tuan, in his own words.
00:05 Hello everyone. My name is Lê Hữu Minh Tuấn.
00:11 I was born in the late 80’s in Quảng Nam province.
00:16 I am a member of the Association of Independent Journalists of Vietnam (AIJV),
00:22 a civil organization created to promote the freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Vietnam.
00:30 By the time you see this video, I’m probably in serious legal danger.
00:43 But I believe I have already made that assessment and accepted it as a matter of course.
00:53 The important thing is that there are some things I need to share with you,
01:00 they’re my views about our organization, about human rights and other related matters.
01:10 First of all, I’d like to state unequivocally that the organization I’ve joined is a purely civil and professional entity.
01:25 It simply exercises the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Vietnam, specifically Article 25,
O1:34 which allows for freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It also encourages freedom of expression… etc.
01:46 Its mission and goal, that which attracted me and led me to become a member, is to provide the most truthful and unbiased news,
01:57 something we don’t often see from the huge state-run media and propaganda machine.
02:04 Secondly, it does not oppose the regime. That is, it does not have grand political ambitions,
02:11 nor does it seek to topple the government. No, that is not what AIJV is about at all.
02:20 Thirdly, it protects the right to speak, to critique, to criticize the government
02:32 just as Mr Nguyễn Ái Quốc [Ho Chi Minh] once spoke about, gave guidance on, pointed out
02:44 and demanded from the French in his An-Nam Manifesto.
03:03 Those privileges, those needs, those goals and mission are what urged me to join.
03:14 I am very proud to have become a member of such an organization,
03:28 one which I believe is quite courageous, even though all it does is to
03:35 exercise the rights that have been defined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
03:43 Yet in a totalitarian system that supposedly is for the people, of the people and by the people as ours,
03:53 this organization is somehow a bold and courageous act.
03:58 The people involved with it, contributing to it, leading it
04:05 like brother Phạm Chí Dũng, uncle Nguyễn Tường Thuỵ,
04:17 should rightly be proud, whose names should rightly be said with pride and respect.
04:30 They are people who have set aside their reputation, despite their age and station in life, in pursuit of human rights for all.
04:43 It’s people like them who attracted me and made me want to join.
04:57 Because compared to them I still lack a lot,
05:13 including the courage to speak my mind.
05:21 By joining them I have gradually been able to gain that ability.
05:30 If something is our right, then we just do it. That’s something Dr Nguyễn Quang A always tells us; something I also believe.
05:42 If it’s written in the Constitution then we can do it. If it’s not prohibited then we can do it,
05:53 especially with regard to human rights. Be guided by what the Constitution says,
05:58 even though it’s possible that our actions may carry subsequent risks. But if we don’t do it then we may never do it.
06:10 If we don’t do it now then there may not be a tomorrow. And if there’s no tomorrow then there’s no future.
06:20 I appreciate the concern everybody has for me, for Phạm Chí Dũng, for Nguyễn Tường Thuỵ, and everyone associated with the Association of Independent Journalists of Vietnam (AIJV).
06:37 It’s a sincere word of thanks,
06:46 In case the AIJV is disrupted, disbanded or stopped
07:00 due to circumstances beyond our control or due to pressure from the government,
07:06 I hope it will have served as the starting point for other civil organizations working for freedom of speech.
07:19 That is to say, I hope it’s a catalyst for similar organizations to appear.
07:27 In fact, I’d also like to remind everyone that AIJV was itself inspired by the Club of Free Journalists founded by Mr Nguyễn văn Hải.
07:44 That goes to show that the end of one organization, its halt, or the legal consequences for certain individuals
07:55 who work for human rights in Vietnam are just temporary setbacks.
08:03 What’s important is that it was able to inspire other individuals and organizations to keep exercising those rights in the future.
08:17 That is something we must maintain and carry forward.
08:24 And only when we keep that effort going will Vietnam have a brighter future.
08:36 The end of one organization, or the imprisonment of an individual, should not be cause for fear,
04:48 because if we become afraid we’ll destroy the imprisoned a second time, we’ll kill their needs and their hopes.
09:04 Let us cheer for them, encourage them, support them by continuing on.
09:13 Thank you everybody, thank you very much.
09:23 My name is Lê Tuấn, I am 23 years old. I come from Quảng Nam.
09:30 I’ve come here today with a story which I’d like to start with the lyrics from a song, I’ll just sing one line from it.
09:40 “And then my sister bore a ceiba flower / The wind didn’t die the day she gave birth.”
My entire story is related to my sister and the road I’ve chosen.
09:50 My sister is someone who’s influenced me greatly. Even now, if anyone asks me who’s had the biggest influence on me, it is none other than my sister Tâm.
09:59 Her name is Tâm. She’s 10 years older than me.
10:06 The reason she’s influenced me so much is because even though my parents gave me life, she’s the one who raised me into who I am today.
10:17 She gave me money so I could eat, go to school, to buy books.
10:24 But more important than all that, she sacrificed her own love life, her own family to take care of her younger three siblings,
10:40 not stopping until they all had grown up and entered college.
10:45 After that she’d sometimes send us money, or call to check how we were doing.
10:54 But that’s not the story I want to tell.
10:58 When I was in the 7th grade, I became extremely discouraged with school because my grades were so low. I told my sister that I couldn’t study any more and I asked her to let me quit.
11:10 She got real mad and yelled at me: “What the hell are you talking about? Say that again?”
11:19 I was shocked. It was the first time she hit me. To a young boy in the 7th grade it was an insult. I felt so insulted.
11:32 She said, “You’d better choose now, if you want to quit then burn all your books right here and now.”
11:42 I said, “OK!” And I took out all my books and burned them. She stood there crying.
11:48 Then she started beating me up… I felt a humongous pain, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized her pain was even bigger
12:00 because she didn’t want to see my drop out of school.
12:05 Later on, through words by my parents and teachers I was able to overcome that stage.
12:11 But a fissure began to appear between me and my sister.
12:17 On her wedding day, I got there quite late. I was the last to arrive, and I never did touch my glass against hers to wish her well.
12:30 I felt there was a deep chasm between us. But that wasn’t all.
12:37 In 2010-2011, I wrote an essay calling for a street protest.
12:46 I was still very naïve and stupid; I put my full name and address at the bottom…
12:55 It didn’t take long for the security police to pay me a visit, they came to my house. My sister learned about it.
13:03 Afterwards she said to me, calling me by my real name Cường,
13:09 “You’re grown up now. You need to choose. I have spent so much time and effort on you. I need you to make a choice.
13:20 You could give me some peace by stopping writing these letters. Go back to your old self. Study hard. Go back to studying like you did in the 7th grade.”
13:32 I said to her I’d follow her advice, that I’d stop. But then I kept on writing. The urge to write was so strong, as the situation was very hot.
13:46 Protests kept happening one after another. I really wanted to write, and I wrote a lot. That made my sister really mad.
13:57 She told me that if this is what I chose then we’d no longer have anything to do with each other.
14:08 I knew then that there truly was a serious chasm between us.
14:15 I chose to continue on my writer’s path. To keep her safe, I chose a new penname and asked for her permission to continue writing.
14:30 Not long after that, she and her husband moved overseas. For eight years I never received even a phone call from her.
15:05 I tell this story in order to share with you something. What my sister did to me in my 7th grade was my good fortune.
15:20 When I decided to continue my schooling, it was a choice I made for my family.
15:30 But once I turned 18, 19 I became a member of the larger society, not just of my family.
15:40 When I chose the path of a writer, to be a social activist, to change society… that was a decision of an adult.
15:54 If an article that I wrote invited security police, it was a part of my fate. Nevertheless, everything was my own choosing.
16:08 Sometimes taking this path means one must put family feelings aside.
16:15 Some people will understand, since we’re brother and sister. But I must go on with my choice.
16:21 I know one of these days I will repay the debt I owe my sister with a future that is better.
16:26 Thank you very much.
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