OTTAWA—As people in Tunisia and several countries in the Middle East have taken to the streets to seek democracy and oust their one-party governments, expat Vietnamese in Canada would like to see a Jasmine Revolution in their own country.
The Vietnamese Canadian Federation held a rally in Ottawa on Sunday in solidarity with people back home who also want democracy, and to decry China’s annexation of land and sea territories owned by Vietnam.
Spokesperson Lam Chan Dho gathered Vietnamese associations from various cities (Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Sherbrooke) in front of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa. The group then moved to the Vietnamese Embassy.
“The Vietnamese government is fighting against our own people. They put dissidents in prison, and security forces kill people. They confiscate people’s land without paying for it and then resell it to people who [use it to] develop golf courses,” he said.
Dho also talked about the trial of a well-known lawyer in Vietnam who was jailed for “anti-state propaganda activities” when he spoke in favour of the democracy movement. Last year, Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years of house arrest.
“All he asked for was some democracy for the Vietnamese people,” said Dho.
Dho said the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) government doesn’t respect the rule of law, and that religious persecution is rampant. He explained that Buddhist monks are imprisoned and members of protestant churches are persecuted, and cited reports of Christians being killed in highland areas of the country.
“Even when they escape to Cambodia, the government will kidnap them and bring them back,” he said.
Dho noted mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners in Vietnam due to pressure from China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a campaign of persecution against adherents of the spiritual discipline in 1999 that continues today.
“Under pressure from China members of Falun Gong are persecuted. If Vietnam were an independent country they would not follow orders from China—especially to persecute Falun Gong. It is not a criminal group, it is not a criminal sect, it is a religious sect and should not be persecuted.”
He added that the CCP is controlling the Vietnamese government.
“As you know, they sell [Vietnam] a lot of weapons to fight and to conquer South Vietnam. To pay their debt the government has to follow China’s orders. For example, after China signed the Paris International treaty during the Conference on Vietnam in 1974, China solemnly swore it would not take over territory from Vietnam and that it would protect the integrity of Vietnam. But they sent troops to the Paracel Islands and renamed them Xisha Qundao, clearly violating the treaty.”
Democracy Movement in Vietnam
Dho talked about how difficult it is in Vietnam for the democracy movement because of the harsh repression of the people by the VCP.
“The influence of the Jasmine Revolution is that people are no longer afraid, they are ready to give their lives for democracy. Actually the government controls people very tightly, so all activities have to be organized underground. One day you will see [democracy] flourish but right now they are just getting organized,” he said.
“The movement to quit the CCP is a very very good movement, and one day these criminals will have to pay for their crimes against humanity—they are killing people, and we should not let them escape punishment. The movement has started already. As you know, Spain has an extradition treaty with China, and the Spanish government is asking for the former leader who helped kill and sell body parts of Falun Gong members. It’s terrible. In the 21st century they still act like they did in barbaric times.”
Dho was referring to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin who initiated the persecution of Falun Gong. An investigative report by Canadians David Matas and David Kilgour uncovered systematic organ harvesting specifically targeting Falun Gong in China. Practitioners are being killed for their vital organs which are sold in China’s lucrative organ trade, the report found.
Victor Charbonneau, from Quebec, joined the movement four years ago when he saw that the Vietnamese people were fighting against China. “China took everything in Vietnam and they are controlling Vietnam. … So Vietnam wants to be free, democratic, but it can’t be because of the communist party there.”
Charbonneau said he sees China’s domination as “not showing respect for others. China is everywhere on the planet and they want to control everything. But they don’t let people live. If people are free it is like they become enemies for them because they don’t integrate the groups.”
Dang Hua, a Vietnamese expatriate who moved to Canada many years ago, said he had participated in a rally in Toronto last week, asking for freedom for people in China. He said he came to Ottawa because “the Chinese government said that Chinese people don’t need freedom or democracy because they prefer economic growth. That is not true, because if it were true why would they need to control the Internet?”
He said he is asking the Chinese government for three things: to immediately release political dissidents; to stop the genocide of Tibetans and the Falun Gong; and to stop the threat of war in the South Sea over the Paracel islands
“I think as humans we have freedom of thought and religion, so they should respect us. They cannot apply the genocide policy to their people—it is too cruel,” Hua said.
“Everything belongs to the communist party so if you have land and you are successful, the communist party can take your land at any time to rent or sell to other people. That means they destroy the economy. There is a big difference between the people who live in the city and in the country. There is a big difference between members of the Communist party and the people. So that is not good economically for the country. Other countries have laws to protect people, but there is no such thing in China or Vietnam. That is the problem and why we have to help the people to have freedom.
Additional reporting by Wei Wu.