|Rev. Phan Van Loi Writes to Rev. Nguyen Van Ly on Black April 30, 2010 1
I treasure Freedom so!
why have I rolled from jail to jail for years? 2
Dear Brother Ly,
The verse written by the poet Nguyen Chi Thien perfectly prophesies your fate! Thirty-five years ago, when
people of the Western Highlands fled with terror to the coastal areas, when Central people hastily fled to the
South during February and March of 1975 to leave the places they thought would become a huge prison,
you were moving in the opposite direction from Saigon to Hue, in spite of the many obstacles and dangers.
On the afternoon of March 25th, 1975 you reached Hue, which was falling to the Communist army.
Recognizing your courage—which is necessary to survive in a Communist regime—together with your sharp
intelligence, Rev. Archbishop Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien assigned you the position of Archbishop Office’s
Secretary to assist him.
However, you were arrested on Sep 07th, 1977. The reason was your publication of two well-known
speeches of the Rev. Archbishop Dien, one on Apr 15th and the other on Apr 22nd, 1977. In his speeches,
the Archbishop stated forthrightly: “There is no religious freedom in Vietnam” and “The Catholics are
considered second-class citizens.” Communists boiled with anger. You were accused of “propagandizing
against the Socialist regime” and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment by a typical People’s Court. However,
they had to release you on Dec 24, 1977 when Vietnam was admitted to membership in the United Nations.
You were placed under house arrest at the residential area of the Archbishop’s office until August 1978.
Now you have started tasting the Communists’ jails and their surveillance.
Subsequently the Communists created pressure to move you to Doc So parish where you would live among
people but under restraint. You immediately sensed the pain of people and your parishioners under the new
regime. Therefore, you sent seven protest letters to the authority, and installed a loudspeaker on the church’
s tower broadcasting the Radio Veritas of Asia.. You scorned the Communist regulation of “asking for
permission.” As a consequence, on May 18th, 1983, you were arrested a second time. You were accused of
“provoking social unrest and destroying national solidarity” and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the
(former) Binh Tri Thien Province Court. It is a strange crime that only exists in the Communist legal system.
You became the witness of prison until July 31st, 1992 at the so-called “Re-education Camp” of Ha Nam
Province where you lived with poet Nguyen Chi Thien. Two ultimate free spirits met each other within prison’s
Returning to the residential area of the Hue Diocese, you were placed under house arrest. The Communist
authority thought that imprisonment and house arrest would defeat you and make you dutiful; from now on
you would be a “good citizen—good religious.” Suddenly, on November 24, 1994, the Feast of Vietnamese
Martyr Saints, you published the “Ten-point Statement on the Situation of the Vietnam Catholic Church at
Hue Diocese”. The Communists wanted to bind your hands, so, on July 30, 1995, they forced you to move to
Nguyet Bieu Parish where you would not allowed to conduct your religious mission such as saying Holy Mass
and preaching to the faithful, but would be under house arrest.
Years passed with silent preparation. On November 14th, 2000, together with Nguyet Bieu parishioners you
raised the banner: “We demand Religious Freedom” and another: “Religious Freedom or death!” which have
become an historical command. From December 03rd , 2000, to February 26th , 2001, that ardent word of
“freedom” flowed into nine higher holistic calls for both religious leaders and followers to demand the
religious freedom which has been robbed (Calls 1-4), for teachers and students to boycott the Communist
Party and its regime which are two horrible prisons (Call 6), for both domestic and overseas compatriots to
unite to build the nation without dictatorial chains (Call 7), for the international community not to facilitate the
oppressive regime of Vietnam to join international conventions (Call 5), for the Congress to make Article 4,
the restraint cap of the 1992 constitution, obsolete, and for the Communist Party-(the jailer) to disband itself
(Call 8). You have joined other religious leaders to publish “the Statement of Vietnamese Religious
Representatives on December 27th, 2000” with five urgent demands. On January 25th, 2001, you showed
evidence that a moved and fired witness of the death of the Late Rev Arcbishop Nguyên Kim Diên, the first
dissident spritual leader of post-1975 who protested, was murdered because of his expression of freedom
and human dignity.
As a result, the Communists created pressure to transfer you to a remote parish, in the middle of a plain
countryside with limited telecommunication and electronic mail. There is a sole entrance to the An Truyen
parish where, from February 02nd to May 15th, 2001 you wrote the first and the second testimonies to the
United States Congress to describe the undemocratic situation in Vietnam. On Feb 26th, 2001, at An Truyen,
the People’s Committee of Thua Thiên Province issued the house arrest order on you for two years. But you
just smiled and considered it as waste paper. From Feb 27th on, the Communists started oppressing you
and parishoners. You initiated an unprecedented action in the regime which is to make the report on the
human-right violations of local authorities. (There were totally nineteen reports made from Mar 11th to May
19th, 2001) which would serve as the proof of their crime. In those reports, you have converted the phrase
“Independence – Freedom - Happiness” into “Mis-independence – Freedom-less – Un-happiness”!!!
On October 19th, 2001, you were accused of two “crimes”: disobedience of the house arrest order and
destruction of the National Solidarity policy. Those are strange crimes which were invented and accused only
by the Communists! You were sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Again, you entered the jail and
stayed at Ba Sao prison, Nam Ha until the end of January 2005. Over there, you have met other pro-
democracy dissidents such as Le Chi Quang, Pham Hong Son, Nguyên Vu Binh, Nguyên Khac Toan,..You all
helped each other strengthen the spirit of freedom. And now, outside the prison, they still keep living such
Again, you have undergone the sixth house arrest order at the residential area of the Archbishop’s office.
And again, ceaselessly since the end of 2005, together with other pro-democracy companions, you
reactivated the movement. This time it had broader scope, including not only religious freedom but also civic
freedom; not only believers’ rights but also people’s rights because they are two sides of the same coin:
Human rights. As a Catholic priest and also a Vietnamese citizen, you consider your mission is fighting not
only for the Church’ rights but also for every compatriot. Freedom of speech, right to assemble, freedom of
movement, freedom of association, right to vote, ... are also the needs of religious!
One by one came the following calls: “The Call for the election of multiparty Congress” dated Oct 17th, 2005,
“The Call for freedom of speech and freedom of press” dated Feb 20th, 2006, “The Call for worker’s rights”
dated Mar 19th, 2006, “The Call for the right of forming parties” dated April 06th, 2006. Those calls were
initially co-signed by you and the Nguyên Kim Diên group and hundreds of domestic pro-democracy
dissidents. On April 08th, 2006, The Manifesto of Democracy and Freedom for Vietnam came into existence
and became historic. Bloc 8406 was formed, of which you are a primary founder and official representative. A
week later (Apr 15th, 2006), the first independent bi-monthly magazine Tu do Ngon Luân – Freedom of
Speech, of which you are an editor, was published in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam without permission.
On June 20th, 2006, Bloc 8406 issued ten essential conditions for the Congress Election of 2007 to be an
election of multiparty, freedom and democracy. On Aug 22nd, 2006, Bloc 8406 published the Progress of
Democratization including four stages and eight steps, of which the basic part of the first two steps, (1) To
leverage the right to Freedom of Speech as the basis for other Human rights; (2) To reactivate, to establish
and to develop non-communist pro-democracy parties has been implemented.
On Sep 08th, 2006, the Thang Tiên Viet Nam party, of which you and other fellow priests are advisors,
publicized its self-establishment in Vietnam to fight nonviolently and face to face with the Vietnam Communist
Party. On Oct 16th, 2006, The Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights for Viet Nam, of which you are also
an important advisor, was established, assembling National forces among domestic as well as overseas
fighting for Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights for Vietnam. On November 25th, 2006, based on your
initiative, Bloc 8406 launched “the Democracy Day for Vietnam, the Whole People’s White Shirt Day on the
1st and the 15th days of every month.
You have become the symbol of the holistic, drastic and thorough resistance with the purpose of putting
down the fake idol Ho Chi Minh, and disbanding the dictatorial Communist regime by peaceful and nonviolent
means, so that all basic freedom rights will be restored. This has provoked and panicked the regime. The
launch of Lac Hong Party, of which you were an advisor on the Dinh Hoi Tet-eve (the year of the Pig), was
like the overflowing drop into the Communists’ anger cup which made them to decide to get rid of you on the
following night (Feb 18th, 2007).
A month later, on Mar 30th, with the same kangaroo court as the one on Oct 19th, 2001, i.e. with neither
relatives nor the Church representatives, nor advocate, nor even self-defense rights, the government
imposed unfair and severe sentences on you and four other pro-democracy dissidents. Especially, the
Communist security agent covered your mouth right in the court. It is a world shaking image which has been
awakening almost all consciences and forever carved into history.. Tran Do, the breakaway General said: “It’
s easy to kill a person but whether he died or not is another story”. Likewise, it’s easy to cover the mouth of
a dissident but whether or not your voice is heard is another story! Now, with more than thousands of
international newspapers and media coverage with millions of copies spreading all over continents, the
historic “Covered Mouth” picture has been and will be the voice echoing over the world, resounding in
history, and moving millions of hearts. It has become the forceful accusation of the dictatorial, deceitful, and
cruel regime whose open mouth falsely proclaims “million times of democracy” and “preeminent
Dear brother Ly, you have undergone the most beautiful, youthful and dynamic days of priesthood not in a
peaceful parish where you were able to organize and build things, but in the prison with a paralyzed body,
deteriorated health and wasted talents. But isn’t it the destiny of a fading candle, a submerging yeast, a
dissolving salt which will be shining, wakening, and salting the world? Isn’t it the destiny of heroic witnesses
and religious martyrs who shall become the seed of numerous Christians to be?
Today, the National Tragic Day – April 30, 2010, all Viet people, regardless of where they have been, are
choked with emotion because the Fatherland is still a great prison including many small jails. You are
released for one year for health treatment because of suffering three strokes while imprisoned in solitary
confinement. Many domestic compatriots are still oppressed and imprisoned, especially your brothers and
sisters in Bloc 8406 and the United Workers Farmers Organization (UWFO), other pro-democracy dissidents,
independent scholars and many free journalists. .
Since your release from prison on March 15, 2010, you have spoken with the Vice-Ambassador of the United
States to Viet Nam, Virginia Palmer, and the Ambassador to the Canadian Embassy to Viet Nam, Deanna
Horton. To each you have announced a Call for reclaiming human rights and civil rights in the Fatherland
and support for a boycott the Communist Party Congress in 2011.
Today is also the 36th anniversary of your priesthood, April 30th, 1974 when you offered yourself to be
sacrificed for truth, justice, love and freedom. How coincidental it is that your anniversary should also be the
Black April 30 Day of invasion by the Communists in the following year! It makes your destiny of continuous
persecution and imprisonment since that day even more prophetic. In fact, you are willing to accept that to
contribute your part in washing away the feuds of the whole nation.
Yours in priestly brotherhood
The Reverend Peter Phan Van Loi
Hue, Viet Nam
April 30, 2010
English translation and editing by
Allies for Freedom publishers
Jean Libby, editor
Palo Alto, California
United States of America
Nhân Quyền tại Việt Nam Series
Tran Trung Ngoc, Vietnamese editor
1. The commemoration of Black April 30 refers to the invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam on April 30, 1975 in
contradiction of the Paris Peace Accords of January 1973, and the surrender of the South Vietnamese government in Saigon.
In Vietnam, it is called Victory Day which is celebrated by edict of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It is a time of mourning
(“Black April”) among Vietnamese in the worldwide diaspora.
2. Nguyen Chi Thien, Flowers From Hell (Hoa Dia-Nguc), “That Woman’s Old – Three Score” translation by Huynh Sanh
Thong (Council on Southeast Asia Studies Yale Center for International and Area Studies 1985: 12).