Cablegate: Open 2003 Letter From Father Ly to Us Congress

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: A: Hanoi 155 B: Hanoi 59 C. 03 Hanoi 1821

1. (U) In a January 8 meeting in Hanoi, Vice Minister of
Public Security Le Van Huong gave Senator Samuel Brownback a
copy of an open letter in Vietnamese to the US Congress
dated June 27, 2003 by imprisoned Catholic Priest Nguyen Van
Ly (Ref A). The letter, the text of which follows in para
3, is similar in content to Ly's comments during his meeting
with Senator Brownback (Ref B). In it, Ly criticized
Congressional bills condemning Vietnam on grounds of human
rights and religious freedom, and asserted that freedoms of
speech and thought do exist in Vietnam and that the
Government does not repress religion. He invited Members of
Congress to visit and "meet with anyone you want" in order
to authenticate these claims. Father Ly noted his own
conviction, but made no further comments his own case, nor
any admission or denial of guilt.

2. (SBU) Comment: Given Father Ly's many years of outspoken
criticism of the Government of Vietnam, this letter more
likely reflected the exigencies of prison existence rather
than his personal views on individual rights in Vietnam.
Indeed, the text sticks closely to the standard GVN claims
of personal freedoms -- tempered by the needs of national
security -- repeated frequently in newspapers, speeches, and
meetings. This letter may well have been an explicit or
implicit prerequisite to the cut in Father Ly's sentence by
five years in July 2003 (ref c). End Comment

3. Begin text (unofficial Embassy translation)

Petition to the Two Houses of the US Congress

Vietnam, June 27, 2003

The Speakers of the Houses,
Senators and Representatives,

May God protect and let the American people live in peace
and happiness.

I am Theodore Nguyen Van Ly. Before I was arrested on May
17, 2003, I was the priest in charge of An Truyen Parish in
Hue Diocese of the Catholic Church of Vietnam. I was
invited by the US Government and Congress to speak on
religious freedom in Vietnam on February 13 and May 16,
2001, in Washington D.C. I was sentenced to fifteen years'
imprisonment for the charge of "acting against an order of
probation and sabotaging the national unity," and have been
serving my term in a prison in accordance with the current
law of Vietnam. Through the media, I know that the Houses
of the US Congress are going to pass the Vietnam Human
Rights Act and therefore I would like respectfully to send
this petition to you.

I would like sincerely to thank those who have kindly paid
attention to the religious situation in Vietnam and to me
personally. But for the long-term interests of the two
countries and especially for the sake of national
sovereignty of my country, I find myself obliged to make
this petition, without being influenced by any outside
pressure, to request the Houses of the US Congress to cancel
the Vietnam Human Rights Act and the Bill on Religious
Freedom in Vietnam for the following reasons:

1. The parliament of one country should not and does not
have the right to pass a bill on another country because it
infringes the right to equality of the other country. The
passing of a bill on another country by the US Congress may
be interpreted as that somebody in the US Congress wanted to
take advantage of the issue of human rights for unhealthy
purposes. Perhaps the US Congress is the only Parliament
that dares inconsiderately to pass bills on other countries.
Any matter of mutual concern should be much better and more
efficiently settled through dialogues and diplomatic

2. Vietnam has simultaneously achieved four essential
successes that many other countries have not, i.e.
independence and unity, social justice for every of its 54
ethic groups, not being enslaved by or dependent on foreign
power, and being one of the most secure and stable countries
in the world. These four successes themselves are enough to
ensure Vietnam's prestige in the international community.
These four very difficult goals have been very well attained
by Vietnam. Economic development and loosening of control
over people's legitimate rights to freedom in harmony with
the security conditions of the country are two easier goals
that are naturally essential and the State of Vietnam has
been carrying out various reforms in order to achieve these
two goals in a more and more efficient and practical manner,
day by day and in all fields, especially with respect to
human rights and religious issues.

3. If one looks at Vietnam's ethical, cultural, and
socialist ideological bases, there are now both freedom of
speech and freedom of thought in Vietnam. Presently all of
the nearly 600 newspapers in Vietnam are using these bases
in making critical remarks and comments on various issues.
In the international market economy into which Vietnam is
trying to integrate, these two freedoms are naturally more
adequate and practicable. But as priorities are given to
the national security and people's conduct, like many other
countries, Vietnam needs to impose restrictions on certain
adversely loose freedoms that may cause disturbances to the

4. The State of Vietnam does not repress religions. Only
some restrictions set by Vietnam are not satisfactory to
certain people, but the Resolution of the 7th Plenum of the
CPV Central Committee provided that "religions have been and
will be in existence together with the nation in the process
of socialist construction in Vietnam," and pointed out
directions satisfactorily to address the issues of religious
freedom for the six formally-recognized religions in
Vietnam. In my opinion, these six religions are all pleased
with this major and positive fact and any minor point that
they may still find unsatisfactory shall be easily agreed
upon in a reasonable manner and in harmony with the overall
interests of the nation. Specifically, the Catholic Church
of Vietnam is now permitted to conduct broader selection and
training of priests, that is to say that directions for
smooth and definite resolution of this most crucial and
burning issue have been given.

5. You are respectfully invited to visit Vietnam to see with
your own eyes how positively Vietnam is changing and
directly meet with anyone you want to. It is certain that
such a visit shall authenticate what I am writing above.

I pray night and day for the US President, US Congress, and
the American people to live in ever-increasing peace, moral
values, and happiness in the family of brotherly humanity.
Please also pray for my Vietnamese homeland and for me.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind reading of this
petition and I hope you share my legitimate view. Please
accept my respectful compliments.


Prisoner Theodore Nguyen Van Ly
(Priest of Hue Diocese)
end text

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