The following statement of dissident Pham Hong Son was sent to me be a mutual friend - Steve Denney
Dangers of Silence after a war
The 17th day of this February will mark the 30th anniversary of the break out of the Sino-Vietnamese war. It was short -- just about a month -- but so bloody that tens of thousands of
people lost their lives and nearly all the civilian infrastructure in six border provinces of Vietnam
were completely destroyed. A few days remain before this anniversary but no news, no articles in Vietnam
’s official mass media recall this event. In recent years, official media in Vietnam
has maintained a timid behavior towards such China-related issues as the secret border agreement in 1999, and islands or landmarks shared or occupied by China
. Many activists and bloggers who tried to raise their voice about China
’s evil have been put in prison or in other ways intimidated. It is clear that the incumbent leaders of Vietnam
do not want to commemorate such an event and they do try to keep not just themselves but all other compatriots silent in the face of China
Three dangers of silence
This essay does not intend to analyze the reasons for Vietnam’s leaders perpetuating such a silence. Many authors have explained that clearly. This essay just intends to consider three dangers that are result from that silence.
First, a danger occurs inside Vietnam. An essential factor that made up the legitimacy for Communist Party of Vietnam’s sole leadership in the last five decades has been its efforts to defend national sovereignty. Whatever the different opinions may be about the two major struggles in 20th century in Vietnam, one with the French and the other with the American-backed regime, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) took the lead and became the victor. In the long history of Vietnam, the only pride for the whole country is that it never bent before the attacker or invader, especially before the traditional Northern invader. The few leaders in history who went to the Northern neighbor for help against popular uprisings have been condemned severely. And the CPV’s strategy in struggling for power was always to find every opportunity to accuse opponents of co-operating with the foreign enemy. But, ironically, it is the CPV which has allowed many of Vietnam’s lands, seas and islands to become lost into China’s hand over the last five decades. They must have felt a simmering indignation among people who may be aware of their concessions. A veteran soldier who fought in the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979 recently uttered his feeling in a private blog Osin: “… What we call a ‘victory’ had to be paid by blood and human heads… And 30 years have passed since we advanced furiously straight to northern border, but islands are still lost and the country still silent…” The CPV is now trying every effort to hide their concessions to Northern invader. The CPV may succeed in silencing people to some extent, but over time, with the support of sophisticated Internet, the truth will come to every person. And the current silence will become as fatal as a tight lid on a steaming tank.
A second danger is to push China more into a wrong path. China is vast in geography and great in culture and history and in the far past China was a superpower for centuries; so an ambition to bring back the past image of a superpower for a contemporary China is understandable and natural. But the Communist Party of China (CPC) which has held sole leadership over China since 1949 seemed so hasty and took several wrong and disastrous roads toward achieving their righteous ambition. In the Mao era from 1949-1976, China conducted a series of such paranoia-filled polices such as the “Anti-rightist campaign”(1957), “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1960), “ Cultural Revolution” (1966-1969); all these campaigns only brought the death of tens of millions of people and a huge devastation of natural and cultural environment. Deng Xiaoping in 1978, a successor to Mao, decided on a new and right way by opening his country to the world but unfortunately only for economy and technology. Actually, many Chinese people enjoyed the results of economic modernization over the last three decades. China has escaped successfully from the poor-nation list in a standard of income per capita, China has reached the largest reserve in USD, China became a third spaceship-owning country and China is a nuclear weapon owner. However, China contains within itself an insidious disaster like Japan in the Meiji era or Germany in the post-WWI period encountered. These two latter nations, which became very powerful in economy and technology by applying Western scientific knowledge and know-how, were both directed by authoritarian politics into a catastrophic hegemony – World War II. So the silent or bending behavior of the CPV before China’s hegemony southward is like urging the CPC to venture further on the wrong and disastrous path. More dangerously, once a war breaks out, those who have to go to a battleground first are not decision-making people but only ordinary citizens
The third danger is to destabilize regional and world peace. In pre-contemporary history, war was not a rare phenomenon for the two countries, Vietnam and its Northern neighbor. Every dynasty in China carried out at least one invasion into its southern neighbor Vietnam. But Vietnam’s leaders, together with their people, were always determined to defend its sovereignty and honor though the leaders had to conduct skillful diplomacy toward their giant neighbor after any victories. So for several centuries, the Vietnamese people’s resistant spirit made an indomitable shield for South-East Asia nations against the Northern invasion. But now Vietnam’s contemporary leaders of the CPV have failed to follow in their ancestors’ wisdom, so the shield for regional and then world peace is being broken up.
Open to rescue
In the time of economic crisis, people may neglect to care about things other than making money; thus a brief war like Sino-Vietnamese war that broke out 30 years ago may no longer draw much attention. However, the hegemony of the attacker in that war remains fierce and appears stronger. More importantly, the attacker behaves aggressively not just toward the outsider but the insider. Charter 08, a common statement made in 2008 by many Chinese people, including intellectual and peasant, states: “…. and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a ‘national human rights action plan.’ Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change. The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people. As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society—the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas—becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.”
Change the Chinese signers meant is a transition to democracy. And democracy is also what many Vietnamese people in recent years demand. Democracy is proven to be the best solution to settle any dispute or trouble without violence, and is the best mechanism to build social harmony and national prosperity in durable peace. So the problem is how to convince the CPV and the CPC to believe in and follow democratic values.
Pham Hong Son
Feb. 11, 2009