August 23, 2001
His Excellency Tran Duc Luong
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Via Facsimile: 011-84-4-823-1872
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned about the harassment of Lt. Gen. Tran Do and the confiscation of his memoirs. We ask you to encourage Vietnamese officials to return Tran's manuscript immediately.
Tran, a former general in the Vietnam People's Army, also served as head of the Culture, Literature, and Art Department of the Party Central Committee and as deputy chairman of the National Assembly. He was expelled from the Communist Party in 1999 after writing essays calling for political reform.
His memoirs, written in three separate sections, contain his thoughts on the future of the country, as well as his analysis of the 9th Party Congress held in April, according to international media reports. The second section was published overseas last year.
On June 12, the Hanoi-based Tran was in Ho Chi Minh City visiting his son. He brought the 83-page third section of his memoirs. On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, Tran took the manuscript to a copier where he printed 15 copies to distribute to his family and friends, according to a U.S.-based journalist familiar with the case.
On his way back from the copy shop, public security officers stopped Tran's car and confiscated all the copies of his manuscript. He was then brought to the local precinct and questioned before being released.
Authorities brought Tran in for questioning again on June 22. Soon after the interrogation session, the 77-year-old Tran fell and was taken to a local emergency room. He was later transferred to the Friendship Hospital in Hanoi, where he is now in critical condition.
Tran is under tight surveillance at the hospital, and a sign on his door states that only family members may visit, the U.S.-based journalist told CPJ.
Tran has repeatedly asked authorities to return his manuscript. He has also written to the Vietnam Writers' Union, of which he is a member, asking for their support.
In one protest letter, he wrote that, "These 83 pages of my diary constitute the heartfelt and ultimate works of my life as a writer. They truly reflect a part of our people's history which needs to be recorded....I have the right to do what I want with my own manuscript," according to Agence France-Presse.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ is appalled that a manuscript has been confiscated simply because authorities do not approve of its contents. We urge Your Excellency to ensure that all copies of Tran's manuscript are returned, and that he is allowed to write and publish without fear of reprisals.
CPJ respectfully reminds Your Excellency that Vietnam is a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges your government to ensure that citizens are free to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, without interference. These freedoms are also guaranteed under Article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper