Some Vietnamese dissidents met with Mr. Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor (also Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany), Ms. Brigitte Zypries (Secretary, Economy & Energy Ministry), Mr. Stephan Steinlein (Federal Secretary, Foreign Affairs Ministry), Ms. Tabea Roessner and a few German diplomatic officials at the Sheraton Hotel in Saigon in the evening of November 21, 2014.
One week before the meeting, Mr. Felix Schwarz, Political Counselor at the Embassy of Germany in Hanoi invited the dissidents to the meeting and made the necessary arrangements. Also present at the meeting were several state ministers from the German government.
Representing Vietnamese dissidents were Mr. Phạm Bá Hải, Mr. Lê Quốc Quyết, Mr. Nguyễn Trí Dũng, Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, and Ms. Huỳnh Thục Vy. Thanks to the discreet and private nature of the invitation and the care the dissidents took when making their way to the Sheraton hotel, they didn’t encounter any harassment from Saigon security forces.
The focus of Mr. Sigmar Gabriel’s visit to Vietnam was economic relations between Germany and Vietnam. However, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel said that “if discussions during a visit to Vietnam centered only on economic matters and neglected the human rights dossier, then it wouldn’t be right and proper.”
At the meeting, we exchanged views on how a struggle for human rights should proceed, the tricky tactics used by the Government of Vietnam, and the linkages between political and economic matters in Vietnam. We also started to provide to the Deputy Prime Minister information on human rights violations in Vietnam.
To date, Deputy Prime Minister Sigmar Gabriel is the highest German official who has met with Vietnamese dissidents. That he did so shows that Germany is gradually paying attention to the political and human rights aspects of the relation between Germany and Vietnam. However, this meeting is just a beginning. It speaks more about the personal kindness of Mr. Felix Schwarz and goodwill of the Embassy of Germany and the government of Germany. It is not the signal of some larger initiative that we could predict.
Nevertheless, the meeting gave us, those who are engaged in the struggle for Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights in Vietnam, a great opportunity to learn about and to better understand the way international politics and diplomacy work. We hope that in the future we will be able translate our newfound knowledge into appropriate and positive actions.
The most important task, the task with the highest priority for us the people engaged in the struggle for democracy, or for the democracy movement in general, is to mobilize and win the people’s heart and mind. Or, to put it differently, we must be able to win the understanding and cooperation of all communities inside the country.
Meeting with Western political leaders such as this one give us the opportunity to establish critical and direct channels of communication with the outside world. This is especially true when considering that the government of Vietnam is relentlessly doing all it can to isolate and prevent us from meeting anyone outside or even inside of the country.
Huỳnh Thục VySài Gòn 22/11/2014