Lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho was an intellectual typifying the national solidarity. To him, “everyone has a native place to love, a country to defend and build and a nation to serve. A real intellectual cannot think and act otherwise.”
Phan Xuan Ha
Lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho, alias Ba Nghia, was born on July 10, 1910, into a poor public servant family in Long Thu village, Long Hung Ha commune, Trung Quan district, Cho Lon province (now Ben Luc town, Long An province).
In summer 1912, 11-years-old Nguyen Huu Tho alone embarked on board a ship sailing to France for study. In May, 1933, after 12 years’ diligent study in France, he returned to Vietnam and was admitted as an intern in Duquesnay’s law office in My Tho town. Several years later, he started his own practice.
In 1940, Khoi nghia Nam ky (Southern Uprising) was suppressed by the French colonialists in a bloodbath. Many brave sacrifices of revolutionaries and cruel massacres of the French colonialists kindled a love for the nation and fellow countrymen in the young lawyer. He always defended justice and the innocent before the colonial court.
At the beginning of 1947, lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho gave up the post of chief judge of Vinh Long province’s civil tribunal previously appointed by the colonial administration and threw himself in a new path - the path of serving the people and the nation. He went to Saigon and opened a law firm. His law firm became a rendezvous for progressive intellectuals in Saigon and South Vietnam. During the period of engaging in public activities in the enemy-occupied area, he not only used his professional expertise to struggle against the enemies and protect patriotic activists and compatriots held in their hands but also actively mobilized intellectuals and students to fight for peace and oppose the aggressive war.
In 1950, he led the Tran Van On movement against the French colonialism’s puppet administration and a demonstration of Saigon people against the American interventionists. Demonstrators held high gold-star-on-red flags, burnt US vehicles and torn US flags. The seething spirit of the struggle of the city’s half a million people drove away two US warships from the Saigon port and South Vietnam.
For his activities, lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho was arrested many times by the enemies. Despite harsh and dangerous circumstances, the brilliant son of South Vietnam always stayed unswerving, steadfast and loyal to the people and showed his resilient determination to contribute to the cause of regaining independence and freedom for the nation, liberating South Vietnam and reunifying the country.
Lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho meets liberation troops__Photo:
On December 20, 1960, in Rum Duon, Trang Chien (Tay Ninh province), the South Vietnam National Front for Liberation was founded without a president. This special circumstance was due to the fact that the person chosen by the Party and President Ho Chi Minh to preside the Front and uphold the banner of solidarity among all strata of people for the liberation of South Vietnam and reunification of the country - lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho - was then placed under house arrest in Phu Yen province by the Ngo Dinh Diem administration.
On October 30, 1961, he was freed by revolutionary forces and went to Tay Ninh province to attend the first congress of the South Vietnam National Front for Liberation. At this congress, held in February 1962, he was elected President of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Front.
He worked with the Front members in quickly setting forth objectives for every single political moment. He was admired by his comrades for his clever way of grasping and solving problems. He also showed a profound political stance while acting as the Front’s President despite a long period of confinement and isolation from all sources of information. That’s why he was recognized by his contemporaries as the “right chosen one” for upholding the banner of great solidarity for the anti-US resistance war.
In June 1969, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam was established and lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho was elected President of the Consultative Council of the Government.
After the liberation of South Vietnam and reunification of the nation in 1975, lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho was elected to various important posts, including: National Assembly deputy of the 6th, 7th and 8th legislatures (from 1976 to 1992); Vice State President; acting State President; National Assembly Chairman; President of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front; honorable President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front; and Vice President of the State Council.
In any of these posts, he always actively and effectively discharged his duties.
With his jurisprudential savvy, he made important contributions to the building of the Vietnamese State and the promulgation of the Constitution, the Civil Code and other laws.
As Chairman of the National Assembly (from 1981 to 1987), he showed constant concern for the realization of democracy and building of the legal system, assuring that the National Assembly fulfill its duties and functions as the highest legislative and supervisory body and decide on the country’s important affairs. He often said “Freedom and democracy can only be realized when the legal system is judicious and adequate and strictly engaged. The fundamental rights of the people must be protected.”
He also paid close attention to the settlement of complaints and denuncia-tions of citizens and petitions of voters.
Under the chairmanship of lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho, the National Assembly stepped up law-making and oversight work to meet requirements of the process of national renewal, passing 10 codes and laws and 15 ordinances, including the Laws on Organization of the National Assembly, the State Council, the Ministers’ Council, People’s Courts, People’s Councils and People’s Committees; the Law on Election of Deputies to People’s Councils; the Ordinance on the Settlement of Complaints and Denunciations; and the Ordinance on Agricultural Tax, etc.
He always thought highly of elections of deputies to the National Assembly and People’s Councils at all levels. He often made it clear to cadres engaged in election work that the Vietnam Fatherland Front should not only nominate and approve candidates named on a ready-made list but also endeavor to exercise the right to truly reflect the people’s aspirations, select and nominate talented and virtuous persons for election.
He often reminded the Front’s chapters at all levels to pay attention to the quality of meetings between voters and election candidates. He spent much time going to localities to oversee and help election-organizing committees properly implement the election law and encourage representatives, Front cadres and mass organizations to voice the aspirations of people of all strata at meetings of people-elected agencies. He contributed importantly to rallying the intellect of people of all social strata and uniting Vietnamese at home and abroad.
For his meritorious services to the revolution, he was conferred by the Party and the State the Golden Star Order, the most honorable one of the Vietnamese State, and many other orders and medals; awarded the International Lenin Prize and the Friendship Medal for Strengthening Peace among Peoples by the Soviet Union State; the Medal for Solidarity and Fighting by the Cuban State; and the Dimitrov Order by the Bulgarian State; and the Joliot Curie Medal by the World Peace Council.
Lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho passed away on December 24, 1996, in Ho Chi Minh City. At present, Ho Chi Minh City, Long An province and Lai Chau province have streets and schools bearing his name.
The life and career of lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho exhibited the transition from true patriotism to communism and were closly attached to the cause of the great national solidarity. He devoted his whole life to the Fatherland and the nation, as praised by late Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Van Linh “Lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho is a great patriotic intellectual”. For his lifetime, lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho led a life true to what he said “Everyone has a native place to love, a country to defend and build and a nation to serve. A real intellectual cannot think and act otherwise.”-