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2017-02-28 | | VCHR
PARIS 28 February 2017 (VCHR) – In preparation for a visit to Vietnam by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights from 20-24 February 2017, members of Amnesty International in Boston launched a letter-writing campaign to urge the EP delegation to press for the release of prominent Buddhist dissident Thích Quảng Độ, Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), currently under house arrest in Saigon.
Alvin Jacobson, who coordinated the campaign, informed the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) that he sent a parcel of 70 individually signed letters to Pier Antonio Panzeri, Chairman of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights and head of the delegation to Vietnam to his office at the European Parliament in Brussels before the delegation’s departure to Hanoi.
Signing letters to the European Parliament, February 2017 (Photo Alvin Jacobson)
Describing Thích Quảng Độ as “a man who reflects all that is best in human rights”, the letter called for his “religious freedom from government control” and “unconditional and immediate release”.
“Notwithstanding years of imprisonment, both actual and under “house arrest”, oppression of religious and political beliefs and convictions, screening and surveillance of all outside contacts, and limited access to health services, he has nevertheless become an international symbol and inspiration for religious freedom and non-violence”, the letter said.
As case coordinator at Amnesty International’s Group 56 (Lexington, Massachussetts) for Thích Quảng Độ and his predecessor, the late UBCV Patriarch Thích Huyền Quang for the past 14 years, Alvin Jacobson said that his group had “written hundreds, if not thousands, of letters to Vietnamese government officials, former President Obama, the Department of State, our congressional delegation, and to US based corporations doing business in Vietnam”.
He appealed to Mr. Panzeri and the EP Human Rights Subcommittee to take urgent action to solve this tragic case : “Regrettably, Thich Huyen Quang died while still under pagoda arrest and unless something extraordinary can be accomplished very soon, the same fate is likely to be that of Thich Quang Do – an 88 year-old man in failing health”.
During their trip, the EP delegation did ask to visit Thích Quảng Độ, but were told that it was “too far to travel”. At a Press Conference before leaving Hanoi, they called on Vietnam to “put an end to religious persecutions” and said it would be “extremely difficult” to ratify the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement without improvements in Vietnam’s human rights record.