Oslo Freedom Forum Screens Rare Interview with Imprisoned Monk for Vietnam Human Rights Day on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, DC (May 11, 2010) – The Oslo Freedom Forum will present its recently-filmed interview with The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do at a congressional ceremony on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Thich Quang Do, the 81-year-old patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and outspoken advocate for democracy and human rights in Vietnam, has been a prisoner of conscience of the Vietnamese government for more than 28 years.
“Venerable Thich Quang Do’s story is one of peaceful struggle for freedom in the face of brutal state repression,” stated Thor Halvorssen, founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum. “Freedom of speech is banned in Vietnam; civil society groups are forced to operate within the confines of government structures; trade unions are not free; and anyone who calls for human rights or democracy risks immediate arrest, usually for ‘infringing on national security.’ Hundreds of political and religious dissidents are in prison, where there is evidence of torture,” continued Halvorssen.
Thich Quang Do’s testimony, which was filmed exclusively for the Oslo Freedom Forum 2010, is available now on YouTube (1). Halvorssen and Kristopher Anderson, film director for the forum, traveled to Vietnam at great risk to interview Thich Quang Do in the monastery where he is under house arrest. After conducting the interview, Halvorssen was detained for hours by plainclothes security agents standing guard outside the monastery.
The congressional ceremony held today on Capitol Hill commemorates the anniversary of the U.S. House-Senate Joint Resolution SJ 168 designating May 11th as Vietnam Human Rights Day, and will call attention to the dismal human rights conditions in Vietnam and across Asia, from Tibet to Burma to North Korea.
Anderson and Sarah Wasserman, managing director of the Oslo Freedom Forum, will be joined at the ceremony and the subsequent “Internet Freedom in Asia” seminar by senior representatives of the AFL-CIO, the America Asia Initiative, Amnesty International USA, Freedom Now, Hope Radio Network, Human Rights Watch, Initiative for China, the National Endowment for Democracy, and Radio Free Asia.
The event is hosted by Senator Sam Brownback and is co-sponsored by members of Congress including Senator Barbara Boxer and Representatives Frank Wolf, Chris Smith, Joseph Cao, Gerald Connolly, Ed Royce, Dana Rohrabacher, James Moran, Zoe Lofgren, and Loretta Sanchez. Interviews with other prominent human rights activists inside Vietnam will also be shown.
As the head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, an organization banned by the government, Thich Quang Do is a unifying symbol of the pro-democracy movement simmering beneath the surface of Vietnam’s dictatorship. He has peacefully challenged the government through political petitions, asking it to engage in discussions about democratic reform and human rights. His work helped reveal to the world that more than one million people have been sent to Vietnamese gulags, or “re-education camps,” without due process or trial. Thich Quang Do is the recipient of the 2006 Rafto Prize, a Norwegian human rights honor often awarded to future Nobel Peace prize laureates (among them Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi and Iran’s Shirin Ebadi).
The Oslo Freedom Forum is committed to bringing together the world’s foremost human rights defenders to share their experience and expertise with an audience of global leaders. It has included the participation of human rights heroes such as Vaclav Havel, Lubna al-Hussein, Anwar Ibrahim, Rebiya Kadeer, Greg Mortenson, Armando Valladares, Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel, Lidia Yusupova, Harry Wu, and Leyla Zana.
For more information, please visit the Oslo Freedom Forum website or Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam. Further updates are available on Facebook and Twitter.
(1) Forbidden faith in Vietnam – The Oslo Freedom Forum interviews Vietnamese Buddhist leader Thich Quang Do :