‘We Cannot Allow This Injustice’

The wife of a Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist jailed in Vietnam gives testimony before a congressional human rights commission in Washington.

ngo-testimony-305.jpg Mai Huong Ngo testifies before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, May 15, 2012.

Mai Huong Ngo, the wife of imprisoned democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan, testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on May 15, urging members of Congress to link measured progress in Vietnam’s rights record to any strengthening of bilateral relations with the U.S. Her husband was arrested April 17 as he deplaned in Tan Son Nhat airport and accused of trying to undermine celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of the Vietnam conflict. A member of the U.S.-based opposition group Viet Tan, which is outlawed in Vietnam, Quan will be held indefinitely while an investigation into charges of “terrorism” is under way. A conviction could carry a penalty of death. In the following statement, Ngo details her husband’s activities and expresses her solidarity with the wives of many other activists who have experienced similar oppression in the one-party communist state:

“Guided by this dream, [Nguyen Quoc Quan] joined Viet Tan and dedicated his life to the promotion of democracy and social justice in Vietnam. He believes that change has to come from the people on the ground through peaceful means and has several times before travelled to Vietnam to make a small contribution.”

“On April 17, 2012 he called me upon landing at the airport in Saigon and promised to call again after checking in at the hotel. I waited. He never called back. My husband was arrested at the airport, accused of so-called ‘terrorism’ under article 84 of the Vietnam Penal Code and is currently detained for an indeterminate period time for ‘investigation.’”

“After my husband's arrest the state media ran a smear campaign in which he was referred to as a ‘terrorist’ and accused of carrying materials on “terrorism training” and allegedly planning to incite acts of subversion.”

“Knowing my husband and his work I would like to point out that the documents on his laptop-- reported by state media--are merely presentations on leadership skills and nonviolent tactics. He once said: ‘Watching poor farmers and activists being beaten by public security makes me want to be with them. I know each of them is much stronger than any regime if only they had confidence and knew how to peacefully and collectively defend their rights.’”

“By detaining my husband for his peaceful activities, Hanoi is not only severely violating his rights but it is also posing a potential threat to anyone supporting the philosophy and approach of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.”

“I am fortunate to sit before you, to freely testify without the fear of reprisal. Yet there are many families that are not so fortunate. I sympathize with the wives of writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and legal scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu who despite harassment are tirelessly fighting for their husbands’ freedom. I feel the pains of the wife of blogger Phan Thanh Hai who was only seven months pregnant when her husband was arrested.”

“The Vietnamese communist government disgraces the honorable work of these brave activists and shutters them away into silence.”

“But we cannot allow this injustice.”

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