I wrote mostly about the United States of America in my last post. Here I will write about Viet Nam. Recently I signed a letter (see below, in English and Vietnamese) concerning Chu Hảo and the Knowledge Publishing House (Nhà Xuất Bản Tri Thức).
Here’s my personal statement:
I stand with all intellectuals, artists, writers, and thinkers who seek to express themselves and share knowledge. There is only beauty and human possibility in such a stance, and in the desire to speak one’s mind and soul. Viet Nam needs a government and a culture that encourages free thought. Without such a government and culture, Viet Nam’s art and ideas will never flourish as much as they can. The country will be impoverished. The people will be impoverished. I speak of a poverty that is not just economic, but spiritual. I am sad for the country of my birth, for my homeland that it will not allow foreign ideas inside, and that it will not allow its citizens to speak and to think freely.
Here follows the letter:
Statement of Concern over Accusations Directed at Chu Hảo and the Knowledge Publishing House (Nhà Xuất Bản Tri Thức)
To: Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party and President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Central Inspection Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party
Cc: Foreign Embassies in Hanoi
Dear Sirs and Madam:
We, who have signed our names below, are scholars, academics and researchers, who have dedicated our careers and much of our lives to the study of Vietnam. Hailing from universities and research institutes around the world, we are often at the forefront of promoting a deeper understanding of and educational cooperation with Vietnam, as well as Vietnamese language learning. As part of this work, we regularly seek funding and other opportunities for Vietnamese students and scholars to visit, study and work at our respective schools, departments and universities.
We write this letter to express our profound disagreement and disappointment with accusations directed at Dr. Chu Hảo, Director of the Knowledge Publishing House, by the Central Inspection Commission on October 25, 2018, as well as follow-up comments posted on the Commission’s webpage on October 31.
Chu Hảo’s primary work at the Knowledge Publishing House has been to make more accessible to Vietnamese students and scholars major academic works of other countries by translating them into Vietnamese. This initiative is both far-sighted and highly important for scientific inquiry. Such works constitute the foundations of contemporary research and thinking in the social sciences and humanities. In high schools and universities around the world, they represent a body of essential readings across disciplines and subjects. Unfortunately, the language barriers that Vietnamese scholars and, especially, students face when trying to access these works puts them at a significant disadvantage when competing for university admissions, scholarships or research funding.
As researchers and educators from around the world, we reject any assertion that these works present a threat to the stable or peaceful development of Vietnam. Modern education has been founded on an ability to discuss and incorporate a wide range of ideas and theoretical propositions. Restricting or denying people access to these ideas will only reduce the analytical tools available to them and impoverish their intellectual development. Even controversial works must be read and analysed before they can be credibly criticized or refuted.
At a time when Vietnam is vying to be internationally competitive in university education and academic scholarship, we find the accusations made by the Central Inspection Commission to be unfounded and disturbing. In the interests of international cooperation and educational development for Vietnam, we strongly request the Commission to revise its assessment of the important work that Chu Hảo is leading at the Knowledge Publishing House. We also strongly support the open letter to support Chu Hảo signed by former members of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and more than 200 eminent supporters.
At the same time, we recommend that the government cultivate wide intellectual discussion of ideas on all topics in Vietnam, and we strongly urge the government to desist from any efforts to harass, intimidate or otherwise punish persons for peacefully expressing their views or opinions.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and we trust that you will respond in a matter that reflects the civility, dignity and educational ambitions of Vietnam.
The Writter Thanh Viet Nguyen
Original post: Fanpage Viet Thanh Nguyen