The symbol of Vietnam’s justice: from “confusion” to “reactionary”

On February 5, 2020, the Council of Judges of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) agreed to choose King Ly Thai Tong (1000-1054) as a symbol of justice in the country. SPC issued Document No. 141 asking courts of all levels to select three statues of King Ly Thai Tong, and state five reasons for the decision. SPC said it is expected that the material and auxiliary blocks will be cast in monolithic copper, the height of the statue is 5.3m. And, the statue of King Ly Thai Tong will be placed at the headquarters of the SPC and the civil and military courts at all levels. The incident has sparked a wave of vehement opposition throughout the society.

The first is called the symbol of justice, it is impossible to take a specific person to represent.

Justice is boundless. Justice is perfect. Justice is eternal. Justice is omnipotent … Therefore, since ancient times the symbol of justice needs the divine.

According to international practice, countries like Japan, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the UK and Northern Ireland, the US, Australia … all take the image of the goddess of justice as the symbol of justice, law, and fair trial. The origin of the goddess of justice comes from Greek and Roman mythology.

Accordingly, depending on each place, the goddess of justice is often depicted with three typical symbols: Holding a sword symbolizes coercive power and authority of the court, a balance to identify good and evil, a symbol of righteousness, fairness, integrity, strictness, impartiality, and a blindfolded scarf symbolizes the idea of ​​”blind” justice, resistance, opposition to the pressures and the influence.

Therefore, anyone, no matter how great, no matter how smart he may be, cannot be a symbol of justice. Because being a human being, the ‘multiplication of the ten perfects’, that is, being a specific person, will surely have defects and even more cannot be the highest peak of all time. A specific person is not almighty enough to deal with the evil of the multitudes to find justice.

Secondly, choosing the symbol of justice and choosing King Ly Thai Tong is completely a mistake.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Hau – general secretary of Ho Chi Minh City Historical Association analyzed: in the role of an emperor, strengthening the legal system is only one of the jobs of King Ly Thai Tong in addition to many actions benefit the nation and the lineage.

King Ly Thai Tong’s promulgation of the Picture Letter was a concrete manifestation of the “rule of the country” not only to guide the trial but also to educate the sense of law to the officials and the people at that time.

It is not appropriate to choose him as a representative of the enforcement agency, because he is the king of the eleventh century with a fairly primitive, simple, uncomplicated, not difficult as it is today.

Not to mention the concept of the king’s role in feudal society that has the highest right over ordinary people, has the right to give “the upper hand to protect” for the person on his behalf to execute the crime without consideration. Those two meanings are no longer relevant today.

Dr. Tran Hau Yen The, lecturer of the history of the Vietnam Fine Arts University in Hanoi also recalled: King Ly Thai Tong has a wrongdoing that is recorded in relation to lady My E, the main wife of King Jaya Sinhavarman II. After taking over Chiem Thanh and killing King Sa Dau, he arrested hundreds of women and skilled workers, including My E. When arriving at Ly Nhan, the king summoned her to a servant, My E took a white sheep wrapped around her and jumped into Chau Giang river.

The poet Tản Đà wrote a poem Telling Mỵ Ê about her:

Chau Giang took a long river,

Boat whining, a concubine!

The map was destroyed,

Crouching Buddha tower of heaven.

Citadel, tower fall

He dies,

So she conducted suicide.

It is the pain of thousands of years of the Cham people that we can never forget.

 Third, overall, all three samples to choose from have very serious disadvantages, like Ly Thai To’s statue, with clear reproducible properties.

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Three statues of King Ly Thai Tong were taken to court officials.

Three sketches of King Ly Thai Tong’s sketches were submitted to court officials.

Form No. 1: the king holds the Picture Book on the left chest with profound connotations that the trial must have a kind heart; the right hand raised as instructed.

Form No. 2: The king’s right hand holds the sword with the judicial implication, true and false, strict judegment.

Form No. 3: The right hand of the king holding the Picture book, the left hand holding the balance of justice.

Dr. Nguyen Xuan Dien refers to the three statues displayed by the sculptor Nguyen Phu Cuong with a statue holding a book (ie a letter) and one hand holding a balance is a very mocking image.

In addition, the king, when seated during the reign, did not stand and the king wore a Binh Thien hat very similar to the statue of Ly Cong Uan on the edge of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. This is the type of Chinese hat that has been harshly reflected by society before.

Tuoi Tre Online quoted a court expert as saying that the SPC’s outline was a forced “East-West” copy. The balance symbolizes righteousness, justice is the Western concept, forcing the Eastern King to raise the balance which can be said to be offensive.

Fourth, it is not appropriate to place statues on the premises of a courthouse.

Dr. Dien said that the construction of the statue may disrupt the space and disturb the landscape of the courthouse, especially the local court with a small scope, even using more land outside the court judgment. Most notably, the monument in Vietnam will always have incense and will arise rituals, place flowers, burn incense, pray … invisible medium makes landscape in the court no longer a sanctuary.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Quynh (Hanoi Bar Association) judged: The court judicial branch must be based on scientific evidence and in the name of the law. Placing statues throughout the court system makes people think of theocracy and the spiritual element, which is absolutely not a must in the judicial system.”

Journalist Tran Quang Vu also assessed the construction of the Ly Dynasty’s statue at the People’s Court headquarters to express a “crudeness to reactionary ideology” for two reasons:

Firstly, human society is in its fourth form, socialist Vietnam is in its fifth form, its socialist form. Before it was the socialist social form, the feudal society (the monarchy), the social form of slavery and the first is the primitive commune. These are things learned from the Marxist-Lenin Philosophy, the only part of history taught in intermediate, advanced political schools. Going with the socialist social form is the socialist legal institution, that is, the legal regime of the people.

The rule of law of the people that builds a king with a scale? It means a legal basis of those who are to be persecuted by the king. Vietnam is in the fifth social form, turning back to the third?

Secondly, the journey to the construction of the parliamentary republic is the skeleton of blood to achieve the quintessence of humankind. Socialist countries have their parliaments and so the capitalist nations. Countries that have more or less monarchy forms such as Britain, Japan, Thailand also have their parliaments too. Vietnamese judges are trying to erect the symbol of the sovereign monarchy: laws issued by the king, judges decided by the king, law enforcement are executioners set up by the king.

Vietnam is reaching democracy through parliament. The hostile forces are saying the communist party is monopolizing the power.

Building up the image of a centralized monarchy (not a constitutional republican monarchy) is a better fit for arguments that distort the party’s policies more than all reactionaries. It is not innocent, not politically naive but probably intentional.

The selection of a new justice symbol will incur a lot of extra costs, unnecessary labor costs for the construction of the statue, the placement of a statue, the cost of protection and maintenance … Especially, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging globally, the world economy and Vietnam is still a long way from recovering.

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Chief Justice of the SPC Nguyen Hoa Binh speaks at a meeting of the Art Council to build the monument of King Ly Thai Tong – a typical historical figure in the trial activities of Vietnam and the late Chiefs Justice of the SPC through periods organized by the SPC on the afternoon of April 28

Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chu made a specific calculation for the construction of statues at the court headquarters as follows:

Statistics as of April 28, 2020, Vietnam has 707 district-level administrative units, including 77 provincial cities, 52 towns, 49 counties, and 529 districts (including 12 island districts).

Except for Hoang Sa (Paracels) district, if counting the courts in 63 provinces and 3 supreme courts in 3 regions, there are 772 administrative units nationwide.

Only the 5.3 meter high bronze statue intended to be placed in the People’s Courts campus costs hundreds of millions of dong. With systemic corruption, the prices of every statue may hit billions.

Thus, in addition to the statue in the SPC, there must also be 771 more justice symbols placed in administrative units with courts. Whatever the size, each symbol costs at least VND200 million. That is 154.4 billion ($7 million) needed.

But there is no statue of justice costing 200 million when going through the state budget? At the time when the Covid-19 pandemic occurs, medical units nationwide are purchasing testing machines with prices raised from $1.5 billion to VND8 billion. With the same corruption rate, prices of justice symbols may be raised many times from medical authorities in order to steal from the state budget.

If the SPC’s plan of making statues does not be halted, a huge sum from peole’s tax will be wasted.

In the face of fierce opposition from the public, the SPC, in the afternoon of April 28, held a meeting of the Arts Council to build the statue of King Ly Thai Tong. In chairing the meeting, Chief Justice of the People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh announced that he would only erect a statue of King Ly Thai Tong at the Supreme Court headquarters and court officials would contribute money to erect the statue.

Subsequently, the Council of Judges of the Supreme People’s Court will not have the authority to choose the symbol of justice.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Quynh frankly said: ‘If later each judicial body would choose a justice symbol by itself? The choice of which image to display in my opinion has no cognitive meaning. It is important that the judge’s morality and intelligence is sufficient to bring justice to the people.

Deputies Luu Binh Pyong, deputy head of the National Assembly’s People’s Committee also said: “The choice of a new justice symbol may not work as expected, because there are still wrongdoing. The choice of a symbol of justice cannot be compared to the court system itself honing its knowledge, ethics, and professional skills. The purpose is to minimize unjust and wrong trials, and this is what people expect from the court industry.”

Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said that he and many of his colleagues want the judiciary so it is necessary to focus on the practice of justice in the courts in Vietnam today rather than a determination to erect justice: ” Need a court to give justice, but people do not need a court to erect a statue of justice. Because the construction of a statue of justice does not necessarily mean justice. As such, just give them justice first, and then want to erect the statue then everyone will support it.”

In the context that Vietnam has just stopped social isolation to accept the situation of both fighting against the pandemic and socio-economic development, it is facing many difficulties that require the whole country to work together, in addition to the East Sea (South China Sea), where China is conducting aggressive moves and threatening to use force to take full control. The SPC, the highest judicial body of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, has these “ridiculous’ ideas,” said Dr. Tran Hau Yen The, affirming an idea full of confusion, choosing the wrong person, placing the image in the wrong place, the style of the statue is not in the right time, the symbols are not in the right way.

While the quality and performance of the court industry are now very alarmed. Try doing surveys to see which cases people are not satisfied with; how many cases were soaked from year to year; how many cases of injustice against people are being dealt with unresolved …

As Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chu asserted: When thousands of wrongful convictions continued one after another, from year to year, lasting for tens of years, no specific historical figure in the past had curable. Now put King Ly Thai Tong as a justice symbol placed on the road, but the injustice and rampant corruption continue to occur, choosing Ly Thai Tong for making statues will only reduce his reputation. Leave him in peace!

Hoang Trung from Hanoi – (Translated)

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