PARIS, 22.04.2014 (IBIB) – Le Cong Cau, leader of the Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia đình Phật tử Việt Nam) and Secretary-general of the Executive Institute of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) has written a letter to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and National Assembly Speaker Nguyen Sinh Hung protesting his arbitrary treatment by the local authorities of Thua Thien Hue and calling on the Vietnamese leadership to order his immediate release.
Le Cong Cau was placed under house arrest at his home in Hue by verbal orders on 1st January 2014 without any justification or charge. Police confiscated his laptop computer, USB flash drives and cell phones. He had been under close Police surveillance since March 2013, when the Thua Thien-Hue authorities threatened to prosecute him for writing articles calling for human rights and supporting the outlawed UBCV. In his letter, Le Cong Cau told the Vietnamese leadership that he had been subjected to “hundreds of “working sessions” by the Police and authorities”, but he refused to cease demanding religious freedom and human rights because “I believe in the right to freedom and democracy. It is the sacred and legitimate right of all people… guaranteed in the SRV Constitution and the United Nations ICCPR to which Vietnam acceded in 1982”.
Le Cong Cau denounced his house arrest as “inhumane” as well as a “gross violation of law”. By prolonging his isolation, preventing him from earning a living and meeting with others, the authorities intended to let him “waste away and die”. He added that his detention “reveal[ed] a new tactic in Vietnams long-standing campaign to suppress the UBCV” by cutting off contacts between the UBCV leadership and activists such as himself. This arbitrary treatment was especially deplorable, he said, in view of Vietnams membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
On 14 April 2014, the Thua Thien-Hue Security Police told Le Cong Cau that the Department of Information and Culture had ordered a new investigation against him and he would be held under house arrest until they decided on his punishment. “We have placed your belongings in custody”, they said, referring to his laptop and cell phones. “In time, we could place you in custody too”.
Full text of the Letter of Protest below:
Vien Hoa Dao, Executive Institute of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam
154 Phan Boi Chau Street, Hue
Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister, SRV,
Mr. Nguyen Sinh Hung, Speaker of the National Assembly, SRV
My name is Le Cong Cau. I am 65 years old and am currently lodging at 154 Phan Boi Chau Street, Truong An district in the city of Hue.
I am writing this “Letter of Protest” to draw your attention to a number of serious issues, and request that you order the local authorities [in Hue] to clarify them immediately.
I have been actively involved in the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and its Buddhist Youth Movement since the age of seven – a total of 58 years. When I look at the vicissitudes that UBCV and the Vietnamese people have endured before and after the communist regime took power, I cannot help but feel pain for my countrys tragic fate.
Before 1975, the UBCV enjoyed full freedom to worship, preach and practice its activities. This freedom was abruptly suppressed after 1975.
In 1981, the Communist Party and the government set up the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) under the auspices of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and the Government Board of Religious Affairs. They announced that the VBS was the sole officially-recognized Buddhist organization. As a result, the UBCV was declared illegal, and millions of Buddhist followers like me suddenly became unlawful citizens, subjected to unabated harassments and persecution.
From then on, I decided to devote my efforts to struggling for the re-establishment of the legal status of the UBCV that was stolen by the communist authorities. In brief, I am fighting for true religious freedom for the UBCV.
Needless to say, my struggle follows the principles of the Bodhisattva, enshrined in the UBCVs Charter: “the Dharma is inseparable from worldly life”. This means that my struggle must go hand in hand with the needs and aspirations of the people. I cannot confine myself to writing stale petitions or shouting empty slogans when my country is in danger of losing its sovereignty and my people have lost their freedom. The only way to save the people from their tragic situation is by pressing for a multi-party system and democratic reforms.
Inspired by these ideals, over the past 30 years I have endured hundreds of “working sessions” by the Security Police and authorities. Some of them lasted a few days, others a whole month. Sometimes I was not even allowed home for a meal, sometimes I was locked up inside my own homes and prohibited to step outside. I resigned myself to endure all this because I believe in the right to freedom and democracy. It is the sacred and legitimate right of all people, and it is enshrined in the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam acceded in 1982.
In March 2013, I was interrogated for three whole days by provincial Security Police from Thua Thien and municipal Police from the city of Hue. Quoting from articles by me that they found on the Internet, the Police concluded:
– that the UBCV is illegal;
– that participating in UBCV-sponsored activities is illegal;
– that my articles spread propaganda against the state and undermined the peoples solidarity.
They asked me to confess that I had violated the law and promise to cease all such activities, otherwise they would take stronger measures against me.
I declared that I stood firmly by my ideals, and would continue the activities I have pursued over the past 38 years. My actions are legitimate, for they are guaranteed in the SRV Constitution and the United Nations ICCPR.
Once again, at the beginning of this year, on 1st January 2014, I was intercepted by Security Police at Phu Bai Airport in Hue as I was going to visit UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do [in Ho Chi Minh City]. Security Police took me off the plane and subjected me to interrogations at the Security Police Station in Truong An district for 13 hours.
After they churned out the same old clichés that I have been hearing for the past 30 years, I told them that I had done nothing to violate the Constitution. As for the Criminal Code, I cannot promise to respect that because I consider it to be anti-constitutional. Not only does it fail to guide citizens to uphold the Constitution, but it contains vague provisions that criminalize the exercise of constitutional rights. In short, the Criminal Code is a baby law that overrides the Constitution, its mother law.
Police then confiscated all my belongings, including two laptop computers, 2 USB flash drives and two cell phones. Up till now, they have still not given them back. From that day onwards, my home was placed under surveillance. I was prohibited to go outside or meet with anyone.
On 18 February 2014, I went to visit my mother [over 90 years old] who was seriously ill. Again, Police intercepted me and took me to the Truong An Police station for questioning during a whole day. They said they had “loosened” the conditions of my house arrest, but I must still make a written request to circulate within the city of Hue, and if I wanted to travel outside Hue, I must file my request one day in advance so that Police could process it. I told them I could not accept these conditions. They had placed me under house arrest by verbal orders alone, and I would respond in the same way. I would not request anything in writing.
Out of the blue, on Saturday 12 April 2014, I received a summons from the Truong An Security Police to come for questioning on Monday 14 April 2014 at 2:00pm on “issues that concern you”. At the same time, Security Police warned me that I would be placed back under strict house arrest from now on, the period of “loose” detention was over. I would not be allowed to leave the premises or make contact with anyone.
I believe that my safety and security has been gravely violated, and I am writing this Letter of Protest to inform you of these facts.
The Vietnamese Criminal Code states: “As long as accused persons have not been found guilty of a crime before a court of law, they must be treated as innocent”.
Moreover, the Code defines house arrest [quản chế] as “a punishment that is applied to those who have committed crimes of violating national security, murder or traffic of women.”
My detention under house arrest is thus a serious violation of the law. I have never received written notification of incriminating charges. There is no time-frame or limit to my detention. The Polices behavior is completely arbitrary – they put me under strict house arrest, then they loosen it at a whim; they summon me for interrogations whenever they please. They allow themselves to treat people like a herd of animals, with absolutely no respect for the law.
From a purely personal point of view, my detention under house arrest is inhumane. The authorities know I am no longer young, that I live alone, separated from my wife and children. I am in lodgings so I cant even do my own cooking. I am forbidden to go outside to earn a living or even meet with anyone. By keeping me this way, they know for sure that I will gradually waste away and die.
From a religious point of view, my detention reveals a new tactic in Vietnams long-standing campaign to suppress the UBCV. I am the Secretary-general of the UBCVs Executive Institute Viện Hóa Đạo, so by detaining me, they are deliberately cutting off contacts between me and the UBCV leadership.
I am therefore sending this Letter of Protest to you, the highest leaders of the SRV government, to call upon you to order the authorities of Thua Thien-Hue to immediately release me from house arrest, return my laptop computers, USB flash-drives and cell phones that they unlawfully confiscated, and generally implement the provisions of the Vietnamese Constitution and the UN ICCPR. This is especially important in view of Vietnams current membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
This is the twelfth letter of protest that I have sent to the Vietnamese leadership. I hope it will not fall on deaf ears as all the others have done.
Hue, 12 April 2014