On June 7, 2011, the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do, Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) gave Radio Free Asia an interview in which he talked about him and other UBCV monks being blocked by police from joining the anti-China protest in Saigon organized by students.
RFA: Dear The Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do. According to reports, you and other UBCV monks had planned to join the peaceful protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Saigon on Sunday June 5 in response to the call by students and pupils. Could you please tell us what reasons made you want to join this protest?
Thich Quang Do: The main reason is the issue of Vietnam’s land and sea territories. All action from China throughout these years have shown that they have blatantly violated our sovereignty and disregarded the laws, especially international maritime laws. The United Nations had clearly defined countries’ maritime territories but China ignored it; they disregard international laws. And most seriously, when the ship Binh Minh 2 was attacked, the Vietnamese government turned a blind eye to that attack; only the people raised their voice about it. It is meaningless to let the spokeswoman to talk about it. The government should have issued a protesting diplomatic document and summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the State Department. The Secretary of State had to represent the government to give that protesting diplomatic note to the Chinese Ambassador in order to show a resolute protesting attitude. Directing a spokeswoman to speak is the same as issuing a press release, which is not effective.
I see that this government is too incompetent and no longer has enough energy to face the country’s difficult issues. Thus, even young students are concerned about this issue; this shows that the issue is very serious and concerning. Students concerned about the country’s future and the nation’s sovereignty have to call upon one another to get to the Chinese Consulate to show their dissatisfactions and concerns; I respect those actions very much. Students are the ones who don’t have to carry much responsibilities towards the country, and they are not at the age to worry about it. Whereas students showed their concern in doing that, why are the country’s leaders, police, and armies who are armed to their teeth are scared of the Chinese?
The government should have raised their voice, and then called upon people to support this protest against the Chinese hegemonism; that is worthy is a sovereign government. The government can not even do that, forcing students and pupils who are considered “still hungry, still premature” to raise their voice. The students can do that; I am very moved by their callings, very moved and impressed. Therefore, even though I am old, I had planned to try to join and share the students’ concerns.
RFA: Reports also said that police barricaded temples that belong to the UBCV and blocked you and the Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh as well as other monks from getting to the protest site. Could you tell us the reason for this police blockage?
Thich Quang Do: We had asked The Venerable Thich Vien Hy from Giac Hoa Temple to invite the Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh to Thanh Minh Zen Monastery and then go with me to the protest. Other temples already knew the protest site, and so each temple could manage their own ways to the protest. Only The Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, Thich Vien Hy, Thich Dong Minh shared the same car with me. Therefore in Giac Hoa, the Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh and Dong Minh rented a car, but they were stopped at the gate of the neighborhood.
The police stopped the Venerables, telling them to go home, “today you are not allowed to go anywhere, go back for working sessions”. The police told the Venerables to return to the temple for working sessions. The Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh said working sessions required official documents, and should not take place in the middle of the street. The police said: you cannot go anywhere today, and then they shoved the Venerables back to the temple. But the Venerables tried to go, and the police followed until Columbia hospital when the police decided they would not allow the Venerables to continue. They push the Venerables back to the temple.
At the same time, someone came up here and asked me to go downstairs for “working sessions”. I asked: what working sessions? It is only morning and government’s work also needs office hours. Why do working sessions take place here?”. I did not go downstairs.
Since yesterday morning, police have been barricading the temple, starting from Tran Huy Lieu Street. They stand on the temple’s sidewalk; they form one line throughout the night. That’s why we are not able to go anywhere. We didn’t know whether the student protest at the Chinese consulate was successful or not. However, I read a press release by the International Buddhist Information Bureau this morning and learned that the protest was a success. In Hanoi, the protestors were able to reach the Chinese Embassy, and many protestors were able to reach the Chinese Consulate in Saigon. I was very happy, happy indeed. So, we are the only ones blocked from joining the protest, and other temples who belong to the UBCV were also blocked, and all the phones were cut off.
RFA: Previously, on behalf of the UBCV, you had repeatedly raised your voice about China invading Paracel and Spratly Islands, and Vietnamese land territories. Ahead of today’s event, what are your and the UBCV’s attitude as well as plans related to this happening? What do you think when people said that this event should be left for the Communist Party and government to handle and that the public should not get involved?
Thich Quang Do: When I was exiled in the North for 10 years, the people said the same thing to us. They said “Let the government take care of everything, people need not worry about anything.”
Let the Party and government handle all political business, people need not concern about politics. Saying that means the government monopolizes politics; the country is safe or not is not people’s business because the government takes care of it. But whether the government practices what it preaches is another story. Right here right now, the Chinese are invading our sea. Nam Quan Pass, one of the country’s most sacred landmarks that mark ancient ancestor’s spirits and magnanimousness, has been lost. That is politics under the government’s care! The government takes care of the country in order to lose it? Is the government so concerned about the country it sells the country? That is only land territory, next is 20 square kilometers of sea territories of the Gulf of Tonkin, the entire Paracel Islands, and part of Spratly Islands. The Chinese drew themselves a beef tongue that covers the entire Pacific Ocean. Whenever they draw, we have to accept it.
Does this government still have any effect on the country?
Students and pupils have seen the Chinese ambitions and they have to act; the government says not to get involved. Ancient ancestors said “Every citizen is responsible for the country’s rise and fall”. When the country and people’s survival are in danger, even an ordinary citizen has to bear responsibilities. Currently the government wants to monopolize; but it is enough to enjoy the monopoly at the time of peace and prosperity. However, in times of danger, the country is facing a disaster, the people must share responsibilities!
I know the goals of the Communist Party. They find ways to prolong only the Communist Party; they hold on to it in order to pass down from father to their children and to their children’s children,… and so forth. Thus, even if the country is lost but the Communist Party survives, it is still fine with them. They are willing to become manservants if they can and will never give up Communist Party.
Therefore, when I saw the protest, I wish that one day in a near future when our country is in danger, all the people will follow that example and standup instead of willing to have their hands tied up and let the Communist Party freely do whatever they want to do.
At this moment, I am calling on all students and pupils from North to South to form a coalition called “The Coalition Against Foreign Invasion.” The purpose of forming this coalition is to unite and cooperate to form a force to protect this country and fight against foreign invasion. I am calling on the intellectuals who are still concerned about the country and people’s future: the country is in danger, if any of you are still committed to this country please call on one another. Even though I am an old man, I volunteer to become a member to protect this country.
RFA: Thanks you the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do.