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Cablegate: Hundreds Attend Funeral for Vietnamese Dissident Leader

VZCZCXRO1139
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #0184/01 0500948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190948Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7191
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4309
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000184

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH
NSC FOR ELIZABETH PHU AND KURT TONG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV KIRF VM

SUBJECT: HUNDREDS ATTEND FUNERAL FOR VIETNAMESE DISSIDENT LEADER

REF: 07 HANOI 1271

HANOI 00000184 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary: The February 16 funeral for Dr. Hoang Minh Chinh,
a former Communist Party ideologue and GVN vice minister turned
dissident and democracy activist, drew hundreds of relatives and
supporters as well as a heavy police presence. Many dissidents
reported that they were prevented from attending and intimidated or
harassed. Embassy Poloff attended the ceremony and Ambassador
Michalak issued a statement calling Chinh "a true patriot" and "a
man of courage and dignity." Full text of the Ambassador's
statement is in para 9. International media reported on Hoang Minh
Chinh's death and funeral, most quoting from the Ambassador's
statement, but to date no Vietnamese media outlets have covered
either the death or funeral. End summary.
2. (SBU) Chinh, who spent five years in jail under French rule and
later 10 years under the communist regime, died in a state-run
military hospital in Hanoi on February 7 at the age of 87 after a
long struggle with cancer. His funeral took place at a nearby
funeral house managed by the hospital. Until his death, Chinh, once
the director of Hanoi's Marx-Lenin Institute and a former Vice
Minister of Education, remained the leader and Secretary General of
the outlawed Democratic Party of Vietnam (DPV), which he co-founded
in 2006 as a pro-democracy incarnation of a once legal
post-independence political party. Chinh also assisted in the 2006
launch of the underground pro-democracy movement Bloc 8406.
SOME DISSIDENTS ABLE TO ATTEND; OTHERS PREVENTED, HARASSED
--------------------------------------------- -------
3. (SBU) The day before the funeral, MFA called PolCouns to express
the government's displeasure at Post's decision to send a
representative to the funeral; as this decision had not been
announced, it is unclear how the GVN knew about Post intentions.
Days before the funeral, Embassy and ConGen received e-mails and
calls from activists complaining of being blocked by security agents
from attending the funeral and called in for interrogation sessions.
Tran Khue, a DPV leader in the South, was blocked from boarding a
plane in HCMC and interrogated for eight hours. HCMC-based Bloc 8406
leader Do Nam Hai was also allegedly prevented from going to the
airport. AmCit and Vietnamese-American doctor Nhan Nguyen, who
reportedly treated Chinh for cancer in the United States in 2005 and
had come to Hanoi for the funeral, told Post she was kicked out of
her hotel room the day before the event and put on a plane out of
the country by security officials.
4. (SBU) Recently-released writer and journalist Tran Khai Thanh
Thuy called the Embassy to say she was interrogated at her home for
several hours the day before the funeral and threatened with
re-arrest, if she attended. She told us that a dissident writer
colleague in Haiphong, Nguyen Xuan Nghia (a member of the Bloc 8406
Executive Board), was also interrogated and warned not to attend
lest a motor vehicle accident come his way. Youth leader Nguyen
Trung told us there were several others who were prevented from
attending the funeral. Pham Hong Son told poloff he was told at the
funeral home entrance to pay his respects quickly and leave.
WATCHED BY POLICE, HUNDREDS ATTEND POLITICALLY CHARGED FUNERAL
--------------------------------------------- --------
5. (SBU) Embassy poloff attended the tense but relatively orderly
February 16 Hanoi funeral ceremony for Chinh, presenting a flower
wreath from the Embassy in keeping with Vietnamese tradition. Chinh
was eulogized and laid to rest with three to four hundred family,
friends and fellow democracy activists in attendance while scores of
plain clothes GVN security agents who were present videotaped
participants in the ceremony.
6. (SBU) Chinh's eulogists included well-known lawyer and former
statesman Tran Lam, who was one of the defense lawyers for
high-profile dissidents Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan at their
2007 trial. Lam said that Chinh "abandoned communism with the heart
of a patriotic intellectual." Chinh's oldest daughter noted that
her father had been jailed by the French for five years and then
later the "Communists" for 10 years. She played a message Chinh
recorded before he died, in which he said with a weakened voice: "I
wish you success in the struggle for freedom and independence and
happiness for all Vietnamese people."
7. (SBU) Chinh's body laid in a closed coffin with a viewing window,
for mourners to file past and pay respect, and he was later
cremated, in a ceremony conducted by monks of the outlawed Unified
Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). Chinh had requested that a
dissident colleague, UBCV leader Thich Quang Do conduct his funeral
and cremate him in Buddhist tradition. Do, unable to attend due to
house arrest restrictions in HCMC, sent one of his deputies to
conduct the ceremony.
8. (SBU) At the ceremony, poloff noted the presence of a number of
political activists, including Dr. Pham Hong Son (a dissident jailed
for four years in 2002 for translating and disseminating a document
on the State Department website, "What is Democracy?"); Nguyen Viet
Trung, a HCMC-based youth leader and DPV associate, who is being
forced into military conscription in the near future; Mrs. Tran Thi
Le, the mother of jailed lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan; and Mrs. Bui Kim
Thanh, a land rights activist and current P1 visa applicant who was

HANOI 00000184 002.2 OF 002


committed to a psychiatric hospital in late 2006, before being
released under USG pressure in the summer of 2007. According to
media reports, Thanh briefly scuffled with police while trying to
unfurl a banner at the funeral; however, she was released after
Chinh's family intervened. ConGen HCMC later spoke with Thanh and
confirmed the incident. A number of activists conveyed thanks to
poloff for the Embassy's representation and complained of ongoing
police harassment and scrutiny.
AMBASSADOR MICHALAK ISSUES STATEMENT
------------------------------------
9. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak, who had visited Chinh in the hospital
in December, issued the following statement on February 15 that was
widely covered in the international media:
"I was saddened to learn of the death of Hoang Minh Chinh and would
like to express my deepest condolences to his family. Hoang Minh
Chinh was a true patriot and proud Vietnamese. I had the honor of
meeting him in December and was able to express my respect for his
lifetime of effort on behalf of his beloved country and its people.
Hoang Minh Chinh battled the cancer that eventually took his life
with the same dignity and courage with which he fought for the
rights of all Vietnamese. A key leader in Vietnam's struggle for
independence, he continued that struggle throughout his life to have
the voices of his fellow citizens heard. It is my profound hope that
his legacy will live on and bear witness to Hoang Minh Chinh's
undying love and commitment to the people of Vietnam."
10. (U) International wire services reported on Hoang Minh Chinh's
death and funeral, most quoting from the Ambassador's statement. A
number of western journalists have also reportedly requested an MFA
response to the Ambassador's message. To date, no Vietnamese media
outlets have covered either the death or funeral of Hoang Minh
Chinh, nor has the MFA issued any kind of reaction to the
Ambassador's statement.

COMMENT: PASSING OF A GENERATION
--------------------------------
11. (SBU) Dr. Hoang Minh Chinh leaves a unique legacy as a hero of
the independence movement who later became a senior member and
ideologue of the Communist Party, achieving the rank of
Vice-Minister, before splitting with the Party in the 1960s over
what he called the inevitable limitations and failings of communism.
His several terms in prison did not sway his views, and he became
something of a father figure for political dissidents and the
underground movement for multi-party democracy. It remains to be
seen who from the next generation will take over the reins of the
outlawed Democratic Party of Vietnam; what is clear is that the
Ministry of Public Security will be watching very closely.
MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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