Doan Viet Hoat

When Doan Viet Hoat received his PhD from Florida State University in 1971, his hope was to return to Vietnam and concentrate on upgrading Saigon’s Van Hah University into a modern, world-class university.

Vietnam had other plans. In 1976, Hoat was imprisoned as part of a mass arrest of intellectuals. For the next 22 years, Hoat was shuttled from prison to prison, eventually spending four and a half years in solitary confinement. Hoat’s personal confinement didn’t diminish his commitment to his people’s freedom, however, and he continued to publish statements on the importance of democracy from prison.

In September 1998, after intense international pressure, Doan Viet Hoat was released from prison and sent into exile. Hoat now lives in the United States, where he continues to advocate for human rights and democracy in Vietnam as chairman and president of the International Institute for Vietnam.

Speaking to Kerry Kennedy in 2000, Hoat described what drives him: “Time has passed too slowly for my country and my people, and left a long history of suffering. So these thoughts make me unable to keep silent–my knowledge, vision, and love of country urge me to speak. And I always believe that truth, justice, and compassion will prevail, no matter how strong the dictators are, no matter how bad the situation might be.”