Growing international recognition for veteran activist

Dr Nguyen Quang A's campaigns have brought him into growing conflict with the authorities.

Dr Nguyen Quang A’s campaigns have brought him into growing conflict with the authorities.

The pro-democracy campaigner, Dr Ngyuen Quang A, has been nominated for a prestigious Dutch human rights prize – a sign of growing international recognition for his work for political change.

He is one of ten candidates selected for the Human Rights Tulip, an annual award selected by the government of the Netherlands with input from NGOs and the voting public.

Dr Quang A’s international profile has increased this year amid growing harassment and intimidation by the authorities, including a police “kidnap” in May when he was bundled into a car and driven out of Hanoi to prevent a planned meeting with President Obama.

He also consolidated his inspirational role amongst political activists at home with his spirited, if ultimately doomed, campaign to contest seats in the National Assembly.

His nomination for the Tulip prize says that Vietnam’s constitution guarantees human rights for its citizens, but the reality on the ground is very different.

“Nguyen Quang A reveals this gap by his actions,” says the citation.

“(He) refuses to self-censor himself and stands up for his rights. For instance, he tried to run for the National Assembly as an independent candidate. His failure to get through the vetting process raised legitimate questions about the level of democracy in Vietnam.”

Dr Quang A’s persistent demands for the implementation of freedoms enshrined in law have brought him into growing conflict with the authorities.

Both he and members of his family have been closely monitored by police and have had their freedom of movement restricted on a number of occasions.

Dr Quang A was detained for hours of questioning after returning from a visit to the United States in addition to his forced detention during President Obama’s visit and a recent visit by Australian diplomats.

Inspiration for young people

A former Communist party member, academic and businessman, Dr Quang A was a founding member of the Civil Society Forum, which urges moderate change and seeks to influence reformist members of the Communist party hierarchy as well as the wider public.

“His work becomes more visible in unofficial media in Vietnam and reflects a level of courage that is rare,” says the citation.

“Mr Quang A is able to inspire a large number of young people through his online and offline activities. His success in claiming rights results in greater opportunities for other citizens to do the same, thereby supporting a nation-wide change for better respected human rights.”

The Tulip prize seeks to reward individuals who show innovation in their efforts to improve human rights.

The winner will receive training and support worth €25,000, and €75,000 to further develop the scale of his or her work.

The ten candidates on the short list are chosen by the Netherlands foreign ministry and the organisation, Justice and Peace. The public then votes and the government selects a winner from the most successful three candidates.

A number of Vietnamese political activists have won other international human rights awards in recent years.

They have, however, yet to win the level of international acclaim and support that played such a key role in the success of Aung San Suu Kyi and her campaign for democracy in Myanmar.