Dozens of human rights and democracy activists in Hanoi on June 7 released "Charter 2015", a signed, written pledge that they will "support and defend each other" against political repression. This is the first time Vietnamese activists have openly and officially stated their will to unite against the oppressive police-dominated authorities.
The 550-word document, which may have been named after Charter 77 initiative in the communist Czechoslovakia, states clearly:
"We, the undersigned, on our honor and with all our responsibility, agree that we are obliged to support and defend each other. In particular, (1) if any of us is detained or arrested, then all the others, if present in the place of the detention or arrest at the time of the detention or arrest, shall gather to demonstrate for his/her immediate release; … (5) if any of us is imprisoned, then all the others shall visit and provide for him/her, and care for his/her family."
Signatories of the Charter posted it to their Facebook personal pages with photos of them holding the Charter, and a short prologue saying, "four years ago, on June 5, 2011, the first anti-China protest rallies took place, they were spontaneous, unorganized and full of fear. On June 5 this year, however, that movement has grown stronger, engaging many individual activists and civil society organizations, and a charter that marks its growth from that fear and spontaneity."
Four years ago, massive protests broke out in both Hanoi and Saigon opposing China’s assertive claims in the Southeast Asian Sea territorial dispute, and they were suppressed brutally. Photos circulated on social media networks showing plainclothes policemen attacking young protesters on the streets of Saigon, even stepping on the face of a blogger in Hanoi.
Following the rallies, repression escalated in both cities. Protesters were intimidated, harassed and isolated from their communities. Hundreds of them were dismissed from their job under police pressure. State-owned media and government-sponsored Internet troops launched massive campaigns against protesters who claimed they just peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression.
However, suppression failed to create the necessary fear and the sector of unregistered civil society has since emerged, "connecting democracy and human rights activists across the country," as written by the bloggers in their prologue to Charter 2015.
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ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE CHARTER'S FULL TEXT
We, the signers of this Charter, recognize that:
Currently, the movement fighting for democracy and human rights in Vietnam has achieved many fast and positive developments. In this context, those in the government who are against progressive reform have been boosting their control and suppression of the movement, with measures ranging from surveillance to slander, from humiliation to assault and arbitrary detention, even imprisonment of activists.
Therefore we, the undersigned, on our honor and with all our responsibility, agree that we are obliged to support and defend each other. In particular,
- If any of us is detained or arrested, then all the others, if present in the place of the detention or arrest at the time of the detention or arrest, shall gather to demonstrate for his/her immediate release; no one shall evade this responsibility. The demonstration should take place in front of the police station where that person is detained, or, in case the place of detention is unknown, the demonstration should be held in front of the Ministry of Public Security.
- If any of us is beaten or assaulted physically or psychologically, then all the others, within their capacity, shall take care of and provide financial and legal assistance to that person.
- If any of us is under pressure that adversely affects his/her job, residence, study, and life, then all the others shall help to make reparation for his/her sufferings and claim for his/her legitimate rights.
- If any of us faces any problem with administrative procedures caused by the authorities, then all the other shall help him/her by providing legal assistance and disseminating news of the problem.
- If any of us is imprisoned, then all the others shall visit and provide for him/her, and care for his/her family, including parents, spouse, and children.
We fulfill these obligations in the spirit of unity, mutual support, and non-violence.
We take on these obligations only to those who sign the Charter and are suppressed because of their peaceful activities supporting democracy and human rights.
Anyone who signs the Charter assumes the above-mentioned obligations. If he/she evades these obligations for whatever reason, he/she shall have his/her name publicized on social media networks and be subject to public criticism. In case he/she violates the Charter three times or more, he/she shall be excluded from the Charter.
The Charter is valid for each individual signer as of the time he/she signs it.
Hanoi, June 5, 2015