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Vietnam Human Rights Day: May 11, 1994

Washington, DC -- In May, the US Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed a joint resolution proclaiming May 11, 1994 as Vietnam Human Rights Day, in support of freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.

The joint resolution, introduced in the Senate by Senator Charles Robb (D-VA) and in the House by Congresswoman Leslie Byrne (D-VA), chose May 11 which is the date of the fourth anniversary of the issuance of the Manifesto of the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam, led by Nguyen Dan Que, a medical doctor who was serving a 20 year sentence for speaking out for democracy and human rights. Previously, he had served 10 years in a communist gulag, without trial, for urging the government to cut military spending to invest in social welfare and health care for the people

The Manifesto called upon the Hanoi Government to respect basic human rights, to accept a multiparty system, and to restore the right of the Vietnamese people to choose their own form of government through free and fair elections. The Manifesto came at a time when the wave of freedom and democracy were sweeping across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It created intense reverberations inside Vietnam and throughout the world but landed Dr. Que and many of his associates in prison.

Ever since, Dr. Que became the symbol of peaceful opposition to the Vietnamese communist regime and received worldwide attention and support for his cause In 1991, he was invited by Mr. Lane Kirkland, President of AFL-CIO, to be an honored guest and speaker at the labor union's Solidarity Day organized in Washington DC. In 1992, 1993 and again this year, members of the US Congress repeatedly nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize On June 6, Dr. Que was nominated for the 1994 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award by the (US) Physicians For Human Rights, and on June 12, he is to receive the Congressional Human Rights Foundation's Raoul Wallenberg Award, in absentia.

By designating May 11 as Vietnam Human Rights Day, the US Congress recognized widespread abuses of human rights in Vietnam. The joint resolution urged "Hanoi to release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners, including Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, with full restoration of their civil and human rights". In regard to the resolution, Congresswoman Byrne stated that the unanimous passage of the resolution sent a strong message to Hanoi that human rights remained an issue of concern to the United States despite of the recent move of the Administration to lift the US Trade Embargo against Vietnam. This message was heartily welcomed by the Vietnamese diaspora.

In February, Virginia's General Assembly passed its own joint resolution also proclaiming May 11, 1994 Vietnam Human Rights day Both joint resolutions were the result of the staunch support of many legislators and the intense lobbying effort of the Vietnamese American community. The passage of both resolutions was celebrated on May 15 at the George Mason Law Center in Virginia with the attendance of more than 300, including several State and US legislators, a representative of the State Department, and leaders of professional, political and human rights organizations.

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