By Trần Văn Huỳnh
I am Trần Văn Huỳnh, the father of prisoner of conscience Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, who is currently serving time in 6th prison in Nghệ An Province, Vietnam.
During his 11-year prison sentence, Duy Thức has been constantly following the news of the world. He believes that the Covid-19 pandemic, although it has been wreaking chaos and havoc everywhere, is also a necessary driving force for the world to take a step towards a new era.
The history of the progress of human society shows that before every revolutionary period, humanity must overcome a tumultuous age in which different values and viewpoints collide. This was the case with the French Revolution, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring movement and the Cold War with its dramatic collapse of the USSR. It is this kind of conflict that can create the energy to establish new values, to help people reach a new state of balance.
The evolutionary history of humankind shows that the driving force that pushes us to go far and beyond does not come from muscular strength, but from resilience, flexibility, and the ability to adapt to change. Therefore, humans everywhere must aspire to build an open society, where new ideas are easily accepted, including political ideologies and social norms; where government institutions are malleable enough to help the society adjust to and re-balance so it can adapt to disruptions caused by creative innovations, as well as the unpredictable forces of the world.
In the case of Vietnam, I think my country is currently in need of a mediating and collaborative attitude that could come about through this energy made available to us in the pandemic. The right attitudes to human progress can become the perfect mediating agent for colliding beliefs: it can help prevent group polarization and enmity between holders of disparate ideas. I hope that new fresh mediating and collaborative attitudes would not be choked out by other hard and old attitudes that aim to move against progress. Now more than ever, we need to protect human rights and values of freedom and equality, especially in countries with premature movements embracing these new attitudes, like Vietnam.
This is the message my son has been dedicating to Vietnamese and world leaders, wishing that we step towards the new era in the best possible way without suffering through too much loss and pain.
Duy Thức has been on a hunger strike since November 24 to protest against the arbitrary use of the law by Vietnamese courts and authorities. His sentence should only have been for 5 years according to Vietnam’s new criminal laws, but he has been in prison for 11 years now. We have submitted a letter of appeal to the People’s Supreme Court and the Justice Department of Vietnam since early October but have not received any responses from said authorities. This demonstrates that human rights in Vietnam only exist on paper, not in reality.
I wish that you would speak up against human rights violations in Vietnam and around the world, so that freedom and dignity could grow and prosper everywhere.
Trần Văn Huỳnh