Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý

Last updated
Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý
Nguyễn Văn Lý

(1946-05-15) 15 May 1946 (age 72)
Nationality Vietnamese
OccupationRoman Catholic priest and political dissident

Father Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý (born 15 May 1946) is a Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest and dissident involved in many pro-democracy movements, for which he was imprisoned for a total of almost 15 years. For his ongoing imprisonment and continuous non-violent protest, Amnesty International adopted Father Lý in December 1983 as a prisoner of conscience. [1] Most recently, his support for the Bloc 8406 manifesto has led to his sentence on 30 March 2007, for an additional eight years in prison, where he was released and then returned in 2011. [2]

A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. In a religious context, the word has been used since 18th century, and in the political sense since 1940, coinciding with the rise of totalitarian systems, especially the Soviet Union.

Amnesty International London-based international human rights organization

Amnesty International is a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The organization says it has more than seven million members and supporters around the world.

Prisoner of conscience anyone imprisoned because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. It also refers to those who have been imprisoned and/or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs

Prisoner of conscience (POC) is a term coined by Peter Benenson in a 28 May 1961 article for the London Observer newspaper. Most often associated with the human rights organisation Amnesty International, the term can refer to anyone imprisoned because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. It also refers to those who have been imprisoned and/or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs.



Nguyễn Văn Lý began his dissident activities as early as the 1970s. He spent a year in prison from 1977–78, and an additional nine from May 1983 to July 1992 for "opposing the revolution and destroying the people's unity." [1]

In November 2000, Father Lý gained global and official attention when members of the Committee for Religious Freedom visited him in his village, during the visit of U.S. president Clinton to Vietnam. [1] On 17 May 2001, Father Lý was arrested at An Truyền church, for his alleged "failure to abide by the decisions on his probation issued by authorized State agencies". [3] In October 2001 Lý received another prison sentence of 15 years for activities linked to the defense of freedom of expression.

Bill Clinton 42nd President of the United States

William Jefferson Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Prior to the presidency, he was the governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992, and the attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was ideologically a New Democrat and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy.

In 2002, Lý was awarded the Homo Homini Award for human rights activism by the Czech group, People in Need , which he shared with Thích Huyền Quang and Thích Quảng Độ. [4] The sentence was later reduced several times and he was finally released in February 2004.

The Homo Homini Award is given annually by the Czech human rights organization People in Need to "an individual in recognition of a dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts". The award is presented at the One World Film Festival, the world's largest human rights film festival.

Thích Huyền Quang Vietnamese Buddhist patriarch and activist

Thích Huyền Quang was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, dissident and activist. At the time, he was the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, a currently banned organisation in his homeland. He was notable for his activism for human and religious rights in Vietnam.

Thích Quảng Độ is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, a currently banned religious body in Vietnam. In 2002, he was awarded the Homo Homini Award for human rights activism by the Czech group People In Need, which he shared with Thích Huyền Quang and Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý.

In 2002, Father Lý, together with Thích Quảng Độ, received Vietnam Human Rights Award from Vietnam Human Rights Network.

As a result of international pressure, including activities of the Vatican's Center of Pastoral Apostolate for Overseas Vietnamese under the leadership of Monsignor Philippe Trần Văn Hoài, Father Lý was released from prison in early 2004 but remains under house arrest in the Archdiocese of Huế. On 8 April 2006, he collaborated with other writers on the "Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam". Later, [ when? ] the signers of this Manifesto called themselves "Bloc 8406", referencing the date of the document. [5]

Huế City in Thừa Thiên–Huế, Vietnam

Huế (Vietnamese: [hwě] is a city in central Vietnam that was the capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty from 1802 to 1945, and of the protectorate of Annam. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor's home; and a replica of the Royal Theater. The city was also the battleground for the Battle of Huế, which was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Bloc 8406 is a small unified coalition of political groups in Vietnam that advocates for democratic reforms in Vietnam. It is named after the date of the group's Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam 2006 declaring the need for democratic reforms in Vietnam. The manifesto was issued on 8 April 2006 and was signed by 118 dissidents calling for a multiparty state. The support later grew into the thousands.

On 15 April 2006, Father Lý and three other Catholic priests published the first issue of "Free Speech" (in Vietnamese: Tự Do Ngôn Luận), an underground online publication. [6] [7] On 8 September 2006, Father Lý participated in the establishment of the Vietnam Progression Party (in Vietnamese Đảng Thăng Tiến Việt Nam).

2007 Arrest and Sentence

On 19 February 2007, security police surrounded and raided Huế Archdiocese to ransack the office, confiscate computers, and arrest him. They moved him to the remote location of Ben Cui in central Vietnam, where he was under house arrest; Father Lý engaged in a hunger strike from 24 February to 5 March 2007. As a member of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy movement, Lý was sentenced again on 30 March 2007 by Vietnamese provincial court judge Bùi Quốc Hiệp to eight years in prison for committing "very serious crimes that harmed national security" by trying to organize a boycott of the upcoming election. [8]

The court appearance was televised in Vietnam, with foreign reporters allowed to attend. During the trial, when Father Lý tried to shout an unauthorized, dissident remark ("Đả Đảo Cộng Sản", meaning "down the communism"), he was immediately held silent with a hand over his mouth by the security officer behind him. [9] Father Lý kicked the bar and repeatedly interrupted the court's proceedings with anti-communist remarks and poems. The video and image were later widely circulated on the internet. The arrest was condemned by leaders including then-United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who called the arrests a "negative development". [8]

After Father Lý's arrest, U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith introduced a House Resolution to call on Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release him and his co-accused. [10] U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State to urge the US State Department to re-designate Vietnam on the US Countries of Particular Concern List due to its violations of human rights and religious freedom. [11]


According to Amnesty International, Lý may have suffered a stroke on 14 November 2009, and was moved to Prison Hospital 198. They launched a letter-writing campaign encouraging the government of Vietnam to ensure Lý can receive adequate health care in hospital and on his return to prison. He was released from prison to receive medical care on 17 March 2010, several years earlier than his original sentence.

In February 2011, Amnesty International lodged an Urgent Action to stop the Vietnamese government's intended return of Father Lý to detention. [12] However, Lý was returned to prison on 25 July 2011. The State Department was "concerned" by this decision.

On 6 March 2012, former U.S. Representative Joseph Cao organized a Vietnamese-American lobbying effort for Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Dan Que, Dieu Cay, and other Vietnamese political prisoners, calling on the administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to take a stronger stand on their behalf. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nguyễn Đan Quế, M.D. is a Vietnamese endocrinologist and pro-democracy activist in Saigon. He was imprisoned from 1978-1988, 1990-1998, 2003-2005, and briefly in 2011 on state security charges related to his activism. In 2003, The New York Times described him as "Vietnam's most renowned dissident".

Human rights in Vietnam

Human rights in Vietnam have long been a matter of much controversy between the Government of Vietnam and some international human rights organizations and Western governments, particularly that of the United States. Under the current constitution, the Communist Party of Vietnam is the only one allowed to rule, the operation of all other political parties being outlawed. Other human rights issues concern freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

Catholic Church in Vietnam

The Catholic Church in Vietnam is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of Bishops in Vietnam who are in communion with the Pope in Rome. Vietnam has the fifth largest Catholic population in Asia, after the Philippines, India, China and Indonesia. According to Catholic Hierarchy Catalog, there are 6,332,700 Catholics in Vietnam, representing 7.0% of the total population. There are 26 dioceses with 2228 parishes and 2668 priests.

Việt Tân

Việt Tân is a network of members inside Vietnam and around the world, that aims to establish democracy and reform Vietnam through peaceful and political means.

Thích Trí Quang is a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk best known for his role in leading South Vietnam's Buddhist population during the Buddhist crisis in 1963.

Internet censorship in Vietnam prevents access to websites critical of the Vietnamese government, expatriate political parties, and international human rights organizations, among others. Online police reportedly monitor Internet cafes and cyber dissidents have been imprisoned. Vietnam regulates its citizens' Internet access using both legal and technical means. The government's efforts to regulate, monitor, and provide oversight regarding Internet use has been referred to as a "Bamboo Firewall".

Cù Huy Hà Vũ is a Vietnamese legal scholar. A government critic and a dissident, he was taken into custody in 2010 on charges of "propaganda against the state" and "plotting to overthrow the communist government of Vietnam". On 4 April 2011, Vu was sentenced to 7 years in prison for "spreading anti-state propaganda", drawing protests from human rights groups, the Roman Catholic Church, and the international community.

The term "Vietnamese democracy movement" comprises any of various isolated efforts to seek democratic reforms in Vietnam. There is not a major movement in Vietnam to reform the current political system. Opposition to governance has been characterised by sporadic calls for reform by minor groups and rare, small protests.

Trần Quốc Hiền is a Vietnamese lawyer and author imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for his union activities. His detention was protested by several international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience.

Nguyễn Văn Hải, better known by his pen name Điếu Cày, is a Vietnamese blogger who has been prosecuted by the government of Vietnam for tax evasion and "disseminating anti-state information and materials". His imprisonment was protested by several international human rights organizations, and Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience. On 21 October 2014, he was released.

Phạm Hồng Sơn is a Vietnamese dissident. In 2003, he was given a five-year of awesomeness. He worked at GNC and Starbucks then 10 years at defense

Lê Quốc Quân is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer, democracy activist and prominent Catholic blogger. He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on 27 December 2012, convicted on 2 October 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the US government.

Vi Đức Hồi is an ethnically Tay Vietnamese democracy activist and former Communist Party official of Lạng Sơn Province. He was imprisoned in 2011 for advocating a multi-party system and democracy.

Tạ Phong Tần is a Vietnamese dissident blogger. A former policewoman and a member of the Communist Party of Vietnam, she was arrested in September 2011 on anti-state propaganda charges for her blog posts alleging government corruption. On 30 July, Tạ Phong Tần's mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng immolated herself in front of the government offices in Bạc Liêu Province in protest of the charges against her daughter. On 24 September 2012, Tạ Phong Tần was sentenced to ten years in prison. Her arrest was protested by groups including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the US State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

Nguyễn Văn Đài Vietnamese lawyer

Nguyễn Văn Đài is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer, democracy activist and blogger. He was arrested in December 16, 2015 by the Vietnamese authorities and charged under Article 88 for “conducting propaganda against the state”. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organisations and elected representatives across the world.

Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mẫn Vietnamese photographer and human rights activist

Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mẫn is a trained beautician and human rights activist. Seeing the social inequities in Vietnam, she became a freelance photojournalist and posted photographs online as an alternative news source to state-controlled media.

Nguyễn Văn Oai is a social rights activists from Quynh Luu district, Nghe An province. He is a Protestant, and studied citizen journalism under Vietnam Redemptorist News. Oai was arrested on August 2, 2011, in Ho Chi Minh City, charged under clause 2 of article 79, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment plus four years of controlled residence.


  1. 1 2 3 Open Vietnam: Father Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý - Prisoner of Conscience|Amnesty International
  2. Fr. Nguyễn Văn Lý sentenced to eight years in prison
  3. Amnesty International profile of Father Lý, "Prisoner of Conscience"
  4. "Previous Recipients of the Homo Homini Award". People in Need. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  5. Vietnam: End Attacks on Year-Old Democracy Movement (Human Rights Watch, 4 June 2007)
  6. Reporters sans frontières (Vietnam)
  7. International PEN: Article Archive
  8. 1 2 "U.S. calls Vietnamese sentence of Catholic priest... 'negative development'", International Herald Tribune
  9. "Vatican said likely to ask for Vietnamese priest's clemency", Catholic Online Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  10. GovTrack: H. Res. 243: Text of Legislation
  11. "Rep. Lofgren Calls on State Department to Add Vietnam to Countries of Particular Concern List" Archived 2007-05-04 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "URGENT ACTION - CATHOLIC PRIEST RISKS BEING RETURNED TO PRISON". Amnesty International. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
  13. Jonathan Tilove (7 March 2012). "Former Rep. Anh 'Joseph' Cao urges tougher line against Vietnam". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 21 July 2012.