Speech by Chairman Nguyen Kim at International Conference on Asian Democracy

Speech by Chairman Nguyen Kim, Vietnam Reform Party
2006 International Conference on Chinese / Asian Democracy
Berlin, May 15-17, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan), I would like to extend to all of you our warmest greetings and our pledge for solidarity in pursuit of Peace, Freedom and Democracy in Asia. I also would like to thank the conference organizers for this opportunity to share with you our views regarding the current struggle to establish democracy in many parts of Asia still suffering under dictatorship.

For more than 50 years, both the people of China and Vietnam have endured untold suffering at the hands of their rulers. In the name of a foreign ideology, these rulers imposed on ordinary citizens one of the most brutal dictatorships ever known. Between China and Vietnam, the number of those fallen victim to these regimes reached millions. This is just one indication of the savagery and brutality that the two nations still have to suffer even today. While the Cultural Revolution was at its peak in China, intellectuals in North Vietnam also were severely persecuted. While Falun Gong followers were being hunted throughout China, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was outlawed and temples were seized in Vietnam.

Today, China and Vietnam are facing similar problems on both economic and social fronts. Social inequality and uneven pace of development between regions have significantly widened the gap between the rich and the poor. This is the main reason for recent rural unrest and labor strife occurring in both countries.

In that context, democratic movements in both China and Vietnam are facing very similar unanswered questions and challenges. The biggest unanswered question is why people in Eastern Europe spectacularly liberated themselves and yet people in Asia, suffering from very similar dictatorships, still have not risen for freedom? At the same time, we have to deal with the absurd argument put forth by some Asian leaders that “Eastern concept of freedom and democracy is not the same as the West”. What’s more absurd is that this argument has been used repeatedly and cast doubt in the minds of many people. Or the fallacy that “economic development first, human rights improvement will come later through dialogue,” a popular misconception being used to earn enormous wealth for the ruling class, the “red capitalists” in China and Vietnam.

It is because of the very same injustice that our people are enduring and the very same challenges that we are facing, democratic movements in China and Vietnam must build an alliance, coordinate activities, and reach out to other peoples in Asia still suffering from dictatorship to start the fourth wave of democratization, one that will cleanse Asia of authoritarian regimes in this 21st century.

With that aspiration, we must unify into one voice to convey to the world that the people of Asia are human beings with the same burning desire for freedom, for a life with no fear, for justice and equality. This is a universal desire, East or West, and no government can deny that.

But how can we challenge a regime that is skillful with tactics of fear and supported by repressive secret police? The Vietnam Reform Party believes that the balance of power rests with the people. A government retains power through consent of the people. Whether consent through a free and fair election in a democracy, or through coercion and repression in a dictatorship, the people still have a choice to withdraw that consent. And if an entire population withdraws their consent through peaceful protest, non-cooperation, and civil disobedience, no dictatorship will be able to remain in power.

This is the essence of a non-violent struggle, one that the Vietnam Reform Party has been pursuing. If the dictator’s strength includes brute force and violence, then we must fight them with a weapon that strikes at their will and ability to yield such force. The key here is to remove our people from fear so that they can make that choice to withdraw consent. We believe that fear is gradually disappearing as people in both China and Vietnam are growing bolder with protests, lawsuits and strikes in demand of equality. Just last month, a group of Vietnamese democracy activists published the only independent bi-weekly journal without government approval. In addition, more than 200 Vietnamese citizens co-signed a declaration calling for freedom of association and a multi-party system.

This underscores even more the necessity to band together. With communism discarded in many places including in its own cradle, the remaining communist regimes rely on each other for survival. Thus, the collapse of one will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the others; the success of democratic forces in one will contribute to the success in the others.

By building an alliance, we can also share our experience that can save us not just time but also the blood of our people. We all need to learn not just how to end dictatorship, but also how to build democracy from the ground up. Furthermore, cooperation and friendship between democratic forces in Asia will establish the foundation for peaceful co-existence, regional development and security in the long run.

Ladies and Gentlemen, To begin our alliance, let me propose three tasks that we can work together:

(1) In response to the European Union’s Resolution 1481, we can promote and lobby for a worldwide Day of Remembrance for victims of communist regimes.

(2) We can persuade nations that have economic ties with the remaining communist regimes to pressure for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.

(3) We can lobby Internet service providers such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft not to provide communist regimes with the technology and knowledge to curb Internet freedom, or the assistance in identifying “cyber” dissidents.

In the spirit of cooperation, this conference is an important and valuable step in our quest for freedom and democracy in Asia. I believe we will accomplish a lot at this gathering, and that many ideas will turn into concrete projects in the coming days.

Thank you for your attention.

Nguyen Kim