Vietnam Dissident Wins Human Rights Award for Inspiring Democracy in Asia

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
Dr. Nguyen Dan Que

[themify_box style=”blue, announcement, rounded” ]Vietnamese medical doctor and Malaysian Bersih 2.0 (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil) are co-recipients of the 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee from the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation for their contributions to promote human rights, democracy and peace, according to a report by foreign media.[/themify_box]

by KTT, April 22, 2016

Vietnamese medical doctor and Malaysian Bersih 2.0 (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil) are co-recipients of the 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee from the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation for their contributions to promote human rights, democracy and peace, according to a report by foreign media.

This year awardees Nguyen Dan Que is a pro-democracy activist living in Vietnam’s southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Bersih 2.0 is the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections in Malaysia.

Born in April 1942 in Hanoi and receiving an MD from Saigon University, Mr. Quy has fought for human rights and democracy and criticized the communist regime’s discriminatory health care policy.

He was outspoken on behalf of those who had no voice, challenging the government’s practice of selectively treating communist party members while neglecting the poor.

In 1976, he joined forces with some friends who shared his frustration at the lack of basic human rights in Vietnam and founded the non-violent National Progressive Front. Dr Que was arrested along with nearly 50 fellow activists and was detained for 10 years without formal charges or a trial, beaten, tortured and placed in solitary confinement.

Respected non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch pressed for his release and the doctor was freed in 1988 in deteriorated health conditions.

Que was not silenced by this horrific experience. He founded the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights to return to the Vietnamese people the right to choose their own form of government according to their will through free and fair elections.

He was arrested one month later in June 1990 and tortured and imprisoned without a trial. In November 1991, Que was brought to trial on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Despite vocal opposition by the U.S. Congress, Que faced a brief trial, without witnesses or legal representation, and was ultimately sentenced to 20 years of hard labor and five years of house arrest.

However, he never gave up what he was doing for human rights and democracy. For instance, he established the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights Association in 2013. At the start of 2014, Que called for all former prisoners of conscience to unite in a league across the country and continue rallying for human rights and democracy in Vietnam. In this context, he and his colleagues founded the Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience.

Dr. Que’s quest for freedom for his people and the persecution he has suffered have inspired men and women around the world to speak out on his behalf. Among them, the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights presented Que with the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award. Inspired by his courage and his persistent determination to fight for a free and democratic Vietnam, the US Congress honored him by passing Joint Resolution SJ 168. President Clinton subsequently signed it into Public Law: 103- 258 designating 11 May as Vietnam Human Rights Day.

The Bersih 2.0 rally (also called the Walk for Democracy) was a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur held on 9 July 2011 as a follow-up to the 2007 Bersih rally. The rally, organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), was supported by Pakatan Rakyat, the coalition of the three largest opposition parties in Malaysia, but was deemed illegal by the government.

The committee found that the value of human rights and peace were realized by Nguyen Dan Que and Bersih 2.0 and highly praised Que’s achievements that inspired other Asian regions.