Trinh Huu Long, co-director of Legal Initiatives for VIETNAM attended the Martin Ennals Awards Press Conference honoring the 2022 Laureates which included his mentor and personal friend, Pham Doan Trang.
- Publish Date: January 19, 2022
Press Conference Speech:
Thank you Mr. Hans Thoolen.
I am deeply honored to represent my mentor and my best friend Pham Doan Trang today in this event. Foremostly, I would like to thank the Jury, the Martin Ennals Foundation, and the City of Geneva for recognizing and honoring Doan Trang.
Almost exactly 8 years ago, Doan Trang landed in Geneva for the first time in her life, to attend the UPR hearing on Vietnam, to meet with the United Nations’ representatives and human rights organizations, and to advocate for human rights and democracy in the country that she loves so much. I had the privilege of accompanying her during that trip. And now, she’s honored by the human rights community in the city of Geneva.
She should be able to be here today with us. Not in prison. And not with a nine years imprisonment sentenced last December with absolutely no hope of overturning the verdict. She is currently being jailed in Hanoi, suffering from severe illnesses without immediate medical attention, without legal representation, and without family visitation.
Before being jailed, Doan Trang was one of the most hunted activists in Vietnam. She was constantly abducted by the police, being beaten up badly on occasions, resulting in her serious leg injuries and sustaining partial disability. Since her return to Vietnam in 2015, she was constantly on the run every two weeks or two months, and lived in nearly 100 different places across the country.
Doan Trang’s story represents the state of human rights in Vietnam. You probably often hear fancy words about Vietnam today as a rising star, an Asian tiger, or a tourist destination. Some of that may ring true. But the other side of the country is ugly. We are a “not free” country according to Freedom House; we are ranked at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, only better than Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, China, and Djibouti; and we are having more than 200 prisoners of conscience, Doan Trang included. The authoritarian regime in Vietnam, led by the Communist Party of Vietnam, has given no space for citizens to participate in politics meaningfully, free and fair elections cannot be found anywhere, making Vietnam a smaller version of authoritarian China.
And that’s why Doan Trang had to fight.
Doan Trang’s story is a prime example of how we can empower others through kindness, encouragement, and modeling. She writes articles and books, she teaches, she founded independent newspapers and publishing houses. Her kindness touches people’s hearts, her encouragement lifts people up, and her modeling inspires people to follow.
She is the change she wanted to see in the world.
And with that, it’s just so obvious that she’s one of the most influential journalists and activists that we have had in Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
The Martin Ennals Award that she receives today is a strong and clear message to the Vietnamese authoritarian government, and more importantly, to the Vietnamese people, that what she’s been doing is right, and the international community is standing by her. It’s true that we are witnessing democracy retreat around the world. We are also witnessing major setbacks in human rights developments in Vietnam, making 2021 probably the worst year since 2000. But people like Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaj, Dr. Daouda Diallo, and Doan Trang represent hope for a better future. And there is hope for a democratic future for Vietnam.
Watch the Martin Ennals Awards - Press Conference.