on Hoang Minh Chinh’s visit
the United States
By Trần Bình Nam
Minh Chinh’s medical treatment trip to America last September 2005 took place
within the framework of political calculations by many political factions: from
the Movement for Democracy in Vietnam
advocated by Messrs. Hoang Minh Chinh and Tran Khue to the government in Hanoi,
the US Embassy in Vietnam, and overseas democracy activists such as the People’s Action Party (PAP) led by Mr.
Nguyen Si Binh and Dr. Nguyen Xuan Ngai. This organization, which has
maintained its relations with Mr Tran Khue for several years, had hoped that Mr
Hoang’s visit would help outsourcing the struggle for democracy in Vietnam through his shear personality
and unyielding political stance against the monopoly of power of the Vietnam
Communist Party (VCP). The US Embassy, however, might have hoped that his trip
would signal Hanoi’s first step toward the recognition of political
opposition in the country. Hanoi might have carefully
weighed both the advantages and disadvantages of the trip in the belief that
what Mr. Hoang might say abroad would not bring any more pressure upon the
government. He had spoken a lot and had been heard around the world. Besides, Hanoi’s approval of the trip
would please the Americans and at the same time help sell its openness and its humane
policy toward the dissidents. Lately Hanoi has been working hard to
have its name removed from the US list of ‘Countries of
Particular Concern’ and to be admitted to the WTO, which was long overdue. Also
the tenth Congress of the VCP is only months ahead, and Hanoi needs to present a clean
face of the country to the world.
the calculations of the Movement for Democracy? Based on available news reports
the Movement was the least prepared, probably assuming that the Party would not let Mr. Hoang
leave for the US. Hanoi’s permission of the trip took
the Movement off-guard, inducing it to become overoptimistic and think that Hanoi had been significantly softened
by international pressure. Prior to Mr. and Mrs. Hoang’s departure, the VCP
made a goodwill gesture by sending an official to their home to see them off,
making Mr. Hoang more confident, and thus resulting in miscalculated steps he
than two months in the US for medical treatment and political
maneuvering, on November 12
Mr. Hoang and his wife returned to Vietnam leaving a political vacuum
behind and a movement in disarray inside the country due to disagreements among
the leading dissidents.
the democracy movement got a chance to regain momentum thanks to Hanoi’s unexpected mistakes.
They harassed Mr. and Mrs. Hoang at Tan Son Nhat airport upon arrival, and on
November 21 sent agents to their daughter’s house (where Mr. and Mrs. Hoang
stayed) to threaten their safety. Again on December 1 when they were about to return
to their home in Hanoi after a flight from Saigon, the police sent a mob to
meet them at his home. According to reports about the event, particularly the
one written by Hoang Tien, one of the dissidents who met Mr. Hoang at the airport,
the 3-hour turmoil was so violent that Mr. Hoang Tien had to escape discreetly
Hanoi police said that the incident was a spontaneous
show of the people’s discontent with Mr. Hoang’s statements while abroad which they
considered harmful to the country (sic). But such a form of violent protest
proved that the VCP had pitifully failed in its basic duty to keep public
order. The VCP claimed that its policy was to maintain a harmonious way of
living imbued with Vietnamese values among all components of society; however,
the disturbances on December 1 in front of Mr. Hoang’s house proved instead
that the Party had nourished a culture of violence.
believed the disturbance was spontaneous. There were ample indications that the
VCP masterminded it in an attempt to terrorize Mr. Hoang because the Party had
lost its self-confidence. They did not even have the courage to indict him before
a court of law if they really thought that what Mr. Hoang said in the US was a criminal act. A
government that cannot use the law to publicly redress its citizens’
wrongdoings and instead must resort to terrorism, is
no longer a government of the people.
dissidents in Vietnam such as Drs. Nguyen Thanh Giang and Ha Sy Phu may not have
entirely agreed with what Mr. Hoang said in America; nevertheless, they stood up
for his defense. Likewise, the Vietnamese overseas, along with many
international NGO organizations have expressed their indignation toward the
uncivilized, immoral and unethical behavior of the VCP.
storm of opinion against the government of Vietnam was unraveled. It is more
important, however, to focus on the main thing: keep alive the movement for
freedom and democracy, especially inside the country.
should be set aside to make room for re-evaluations and lessons learned. We
have no other choice.
Trần Bình Nam