History

History of PEN Vietnam
Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre
 
Founders:  Trần Tam Tiệp
    Editor, Humanist
    Actively supported writers and artists persecuted in Socialist Vietnam

Minh Đức Hoài Trinh
    Poet, Reporter

Nguyên Sa Trần Bích Lan
    Poet and former Vice-President of PEN Vietnam

+     +     +

President 1978-1980:  Minh Đức Hoài Trinh
    Poet, Reporter


President 1980-1983: Nguyễn Văn Hảo
VNAPC actively supported dissident writers in Vietnam.


President 1984-1988:  Trần Thanh Hiệp
    Author, Attorney, Politician
    Expanded VNAPC to North America


President 1989-1990 Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn
Author, Media Personality
    By-Laws and Regulations formulated
 
President 1991-1992  Trang Châu
    Poet, M.D., National Literary Winner
    Extended Executive term to 3 years


President 1993-1995  Viên Linh
    Publisher, National Literary Winner


President 2001-2002  Minh Đức Hoài Trinh
 
President 2003-2005  Phạm Quang Trình
    Author
 
President 2009- 2011 Nguyễn Đăng Tuấn
    Poet
 
President 2011-2017 Vũ Văn Tùng
    Author, Pharmacist
    VNAPC received charity status
    VNAPC’s first literary camp


President 2018-2020  Lloyd Dương
    Author, Attorney, Humanist
    Amended By-Laws and Regulations
    Established PENVietnam.org website
    Emanated celebration marking the 40th
      anniversary of VNAPC’s establishment
     Created PENVietnam.org


Brief History

The Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre is an organization of writers, poets, artists, musicians and literary composers, etc., from across the globe.   The Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre was founded to promote solidarity among members, to promote Vietnamese literature and to voice deep concern for human rights violations, especially those oppressive campaigns against writers in Vietnam. 
 
1978:  The Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre (VNAPC) was established and introduced on June 25, 1978 in Paris, France, principally through the tremendous efforts of Trần Tam Tiệp, a highly-respected Editor who tirelessly supported writers and artists persecuted in Socialist Vietnam, and Minh Đức Hoài Trinh, a journalist, and Nguyên Sa Trần Bích Lan, a famous poet and formerly Vice-President of the PEN Vietnam.
 
When the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre was founded in 1978, Hanoi was detaining more than 130 writers, poets, artists.  It should be noted that former President of PEN Vietnam Centre, Poet Vũ Hoàng Chương passed away only days after being released from the Communist prison on September 6, 1976.
 
1979:  PEN International 44th Congress admitted VNAPC as an official member Centre.  VNAPC’s first President Minh Đức Hoài Trinh (term 1978-1980) attended the 44th Congress.
It could be said that, during the first years, President Minh Đức Hoài Trinh was the VNAPC’s heart and Secretary General Trần Tam Tiệp was the VNAPC’s soul and mind.  In 1978 the overseas community of Vietnamese writers, poets and artist was still struggling with new challenges in a new European and North American environment; therefore, it was difficult for the VNAPC to attract members.  While President Minh Đức Hoài Trinh tried to expand membership beyond the initial base of no more than 20, Secretary General Trần Tam Tiệp was actively seeking means to support writers, who were persecuted in Socialist Vietnam.

1980-1983: Under President Nguyễn Văn Hảo’s leadership, the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre became the source of support for dissident writers in Vietnam as well as the channel for them to publish works in the overseas Vietnamese community.

One of the well-known articles from dissident writers was Nếu Chàng Trương Chi Đẹp Trai (If Trương Chi is handsome) by Dương Hùng Cường criticizing human right violations by Hanoi;  through the help of Secretary General Trần Tam Tiệp, the article was published in April 1982 by Nhất Việt magazine in Paris, France.
The VNAPC’s support by for writers in Vietnam ended partly due to insufficient funding but also because Hanoi took a hard position accusing the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre as supporting anti-revolutionary activities.
Secretary General Trần Tam Tiệp was publicly named by Hanoi’s media as “enemy soldier” in the literary arena.  The Socialist government of Vietnam then rounded up those writers, who were in contact with VNAPC, and accused them to be spies for foreigners.  Sadly, Dương Hùng Cường died in prison;  Hanoi labeled the cause of his death as “suicide.”
 
1984-1988:   VNAPC’s President Trần Thanh Hiệpattorney and writer, expanded the Centre to North America with the first general election of the Executive Board held in Montreal, Canada, in 1989.
VNAPC’s membership expanded for the first time during this period.  VNAPC presently has many members in Canada and the United States.
 
1989-1990:   VNAPC’s President Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn, author and media personality, helped to formulate the Centre’s By-Laws and Regulations.
 
1991-1992:   President Trang Châu Lê Văn Châu, Poet, M.D., National Literary Winner, amended the Centre’s By-Laws and Regulations.

Dr. Lê Văn Châu volunteered in several missions to Southeast Asia to rescue refugees, who escaped Socialist Vietnam on small boats in the early 1980s.

1993-1995:   
President 1993-95  Viên Linh, Publisher, National Literary Winner, continued until present to write many well-researched papers on authors and literary events.  His writings are so valuable to those who wish to learn about Vietnamese literature in the last 50 years.

1996-2001: VNAPC’s central Executive Board was inactive but members continued to hold literary events.

2001-2002: President Minh Đức Hoài Trinh amended the Centre’s By-Laws and Regulations to define criteria for VNAPC’s associate regional chapters.

2003-2005:  President Phạm Quang TrìnhAuthor.
 
2009-2011: President Nguyễn Đăng TuấnPoet.
 
2011-2017: President Vũ Văn TùngAuthor, Pharmacist, applied for and received Charity status for VNAPC.   During President Vũ Văn Tùng’s two terms, collections of member’ works were published quarterly and VNAPC’s first literary camp was organized.
In August 2016 VNAPC held the first literary camp in Houston. Mayor S. Turner proclaimed officially August 19-20/8/2016 as “the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre Days in Houston, Texas.”

2018-2020:  President Lloyd Duong, Author and Attorney, was a refugee at age 14 who escaped Socialist Vietnam on a small boat that attacked by pirates several times and left to die at sea.  He and 26 other refugees were rescued timely by the Akuna and taken to Songkhla refugee camp in Thailand.  After a few months, he was resettled in Canada on May 10, 1980.  He wrote several books, two of which are often cited by researchers are The Boat People: Imprints on History and East Political Philosophies.
A student activist then a Crown prosecutor, who spent time in Hong Kong to assist refugees to seek U.N. protection, Lloyd Duong joined VNAPC in 1997.  Over the years, he’d served as president of VNAPC’s Writers in Prison Committee, as adviser to various Executive Boards, and was the originator and organizer of VNAPC’s first literary camp in Houston from August 19 to 20/8/2016.
Lloyd Duong envisions the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre as an organization dedicated to “Promote the Voices of Conscience and the Echoes of Compassion of Vietnamese across the Globe.”  Under this vision, a bi-lingual website was established (PENVietnam.org) to promote creative works by members and to record VNAPC’s history and activities.  The By-Laws and Regulations were amended to enshrine the symbol of freedom in the heart of Vietnamese across the globe (the yellow flag with three red stripes).
The Official Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre was held in Washington, D.C. , on March 31, 2018.  It was attended by 500 members and patrons and was covered by various Vietnamese TV channels.

SBTN:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rf_3G3xQKw
VietTV:    https://youtu.be/8xFKbX5KAsI

To draw international attention to the serious human right violations in Socialist Vietnam, VNAPC issued various protest letters such as:
Letter of Objection Protesting Vietnam’s New Cyber Security Law Granting Unlimited Powers to Infringe on the Freedoms of Expression and Association

Letter of Protest Condemning Human Right Violations in Vietnam in light of the Recent Trial of Peaceful Activists on April 5, 2018

Letter of Objection Protesting the Proposed Legislation to Open the Floodgates to Century-Long Leases of Vietnam’s Inland Territories to China

VNAPC also presented “SUBMISSION TO THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” on the Universal Periodic Review of Socialist Republic of Vietnam (32nd session) to be held during January – February 2019.
VNAPC members hope that this Submission will illuminate Socialist Vietnam’s repressive policy and, consequently, encourages the Vietnamese government to commit to change to respect democratic pluralism and basic human rights, including the freedom of association, freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
The Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre received the official congratulation from the government of Ontario authored by Premier K. Wynne “thanks the Board and members of the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre for their contribution to nurturing the extraordinary voices and stories of our Vietnamese community.”